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I 


flythcAulhoreffl 

IHE  nCKiMNIC  LtGAClf 

ttlCHAEL  BAIGENT 
RICIIAKI)  l.UCitl 


Holy  Blood,  Holy  Grail 

by 
Michael  Baigent,  Richard  Leigh  and  Henry  Lincoln 


HOL  Y  BLOOD,  HOL  Y  GRAIL 

PART  ONE  The  Mystery  21 

1  Village  of  Mystery  23 

Rennes-leChateau  and  Berenger  Sauniere  24 
The  Possible  Treasures  32 

The  Intrigue  37 

2  The  Cathars  and  the  Great  Heresy  41 
The  Albigensian  Crusade  42 

The  Siege  of  Montsegur  49 

The  Cathar  Treasure  51 

The  Mystery  of  the  Cathars  56 

3  The  Warrior  Monks  59 

Knights  Templar  The  Orthodox  Account  60 
Knights  Templar  The  Mysteries  75 
Knights  Templar-  The  Hidden  Side  83 

4  Secret  Documents  94 

PART  TWO  The  Secret  Society  1 09 

The  Order  Behind  the  Scenes  1 1 1 

The  Mystery  Surrounding  the  Foundation  of  the  Knights  Templar  116 

Louis  VII  and  the  Prieure  de  Sion  1 1 9 

The  Cutting  of  the  Elm'  at  Gisors  1 20 

5  Ormus  123  The  Prieure  at  Orleans  126 
The  "Head'  of  the  Templars  1 28 

The  Grand  Masters  of  the  Templars  1 29 

6  The  Grand  Masters  and  the  Underground  Stream  133 
Rene  d'Anjou  138 

Rene  and  the  Theme  of  Arcadia  140 

The  Rosicrucian  Manifestos  144 

The  Stuart  Dynasty  148 

Charles  Nodier  and  His  Circle  154 

Debussy  and  the  Rose-Croix  158 

Jean  Cocteau  161 

The  Two  John  XXI I  Is  164 

7  Conspiracy  through  the  Centuries  168 
The  Prieure  de  Sion  in  France  170 
The  Dukes  of  Guise  and  Lorraine  173 
The  Bid  for  the  Throne  of  France  176 
The  Compagnie  du  Saint-Sacrement  178 


Chateau  Barberie  183 

Nicolas  Fouquet  185 

Nicolas  Poussin  187 

Rosslyn  Chapel  and  Shugborough  Hall  190 

The  Pope's  Secret  Letter  192 

The  Rock  of  Sion  192 

The  Catholic  Modernist  Movement  194 

The  Protocols  of  Sion  198 

The  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or  203 

8  The  Secret  Society  Today  209 
Alain  Poher212 

The  Lost  King  213 

Curious  Pamphlets  in  the  Bibliotheque  Nationale,  Paris  216 

The  Catholic  Traditionalists  21 9 

The  Convent  of  1981  and  Cocteau's  Statutes  223 

M.  Plantard  de  Saint-Clair  230 

The  Politics  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  237 

9  The  Long-haired  Monarchs  245 
Legend  and  the  Merovingians  245 
The  Bear  from  Arcadia  249 

The  Sicambrians  Enter  Gaul  250 

Merovee  and  His  Descendants  251 

Blood  Royal  253 

Clovis  and  His  Pact  with  the  Church  254 

Dagobert  II  257 

The  Usurpation  by  the  Carolingians  265 

The  Exclusion  of  Dagobert  II  from  History  269 

Prince  Guillem  de  Gellone,  Comte  de  Razes  271 

Prince  Ursus  274 

The  Grail  Family  277 

The  Elusive  Mystery  281 

10  The  Exiled  Tribe  282 

PART  THREE  The  Bloodline  293 

11  The  Holy  Grail  295 

The  Legend  of  the  Holy  Grail  297 

The  Story  of  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach  306 

The  Grail  and  Cabalism  318 

The  Play  on  Words  319 

The  Lost  Kings  and  the  Grail  321 

The  Need  to  Synthesise  324 

Our  Hypothesis  328 

12  The  Priest-King  Who  Never  Ruled  331 
Palestine  at  the  Time  of  Jesus  338 

The  History  of  the  Gospels  343 
The  Marital  Status  of  Jesus  346 


The  Wife  of  Jesus  349 
The  Beloved  Disciple  355 
The  Dynasty  of  Jesus  362 
The  Crucifixion  366 
Who  was  Barabbas?  368 
The  Crucifixion  in  Detail  371 
The  Scenario  377 

13  The  Secret  the  Church  Forbade  379 
The  Zealots  389 

The  Gnostic  Writings  399 

14  The  Grail  Dynasty  405 
Judaism  and  the  Merovingians  409 
The  Principality  in  Septimania  412 
The  Seed  of  David  41 9 

15  Conclusion  and  Portents  for  the  Future  421 
Postscript  439 

Appendix  The  Alleged  Grand  Masters  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  441 

Bibliography  467 

Notes  and  References  481 

Index  517  Illustrations 

Plates 

I  The  village  of  Rennes-le  Chateau  2  The  Chateau  d'Hautpoul  3  Berenger 

Sauniere  4  The  Villa  Bethania  5  The  Visigothic  pillar  in  the  church 

at 

Rennes-le 

Chateau  6  The  inscribed  calvary  near  the  entrance  of  the  church  at 
Rennes-leChateau  7  The  Tour  Magdala,  Rennes-leChateau  8  The  Cathar 
castle  of  Montsegur  9  A  fifteenth-century  print  of  Jerusalem  10  The 
Tomb  of  David,  Abbey  of  Notre  Dame  duMont  de  Sion,  Jerusalem  1 1  The 
Temple,  Jerusalem  12  The  octagonal  tower  of  the  castle  of  Gisors  13  The 
sea  wall  of  the  castle  of  Athlit,  Palestine  14  The  church  of  the 
Knights  Templar,  London  15  Interior  of  the  Temple  church,  London  16  a 
Seal  of  the  Abbey  of  Notre  Dame  duMont  de  Sion  b  Seal  of  the  Knights 
Templar  1 7  The  Abbey  of  Orval  1 8  The  tomb  near  Arques  1 9  "La  Fontaine 
de  Fortune',  by  Rene  d'Anjou  20  "Et  in  Arcadia  Ego',  by  Guercino  21  "Et 
in  Arcadia  Ego',  by  Poussin  22  "Les  Bergers  d'Arcadie,"  by  Poussin  23 
"The  Shepherds'  Monument',  Shugborough  Hall  24  A  seventeenth-century 
Masonic  tomb  25  The  trepanned  skull  of  Dagobert  II  26  Pierre  Plantard 
de  Saint-Clair  27  Sword  hilt  and  scabbard  found  at  the  grave  of 
Childeric  I  28  The  crystal  ball  found  in  Childeric's  grave  29  The  gold 
bees  found  in  Childeric's  grave  30  Garway  church,  Herefordshire  31 
Graffiti  on  the  piscina,  Garway  church  32  Jewish  coin  from  the  time  of 
Antiochus 


VII 

33  Window  at  Alet  Cathedral  34  A  fifteenth-century  illumination 

depicting  fleur-de  lys  35  Untitled  painting  of  Godfroi  de 

Bouillon,  by  Claude 

Vignon 

Maps 

1  The  major  sites  of  investigation  in  France  2  Rennes-leChateau  and  its 

environs  3  The  Languedoc  of  the  Cathars  4The  major  castles  and  towns  of 

the  Holy  Land  in  the  mid-twelfth  century  5Jerusalem  the  Temple  and  the 

area  of  Mount  Sion  in  the  mid-twelfth  century  6  The  Duchy  of  Lorraine 

in  the  mid-sixteenth  century  7  The  Merovingian  kingdoms  8  Judaea, 

showing  the  only  avenue  of  escape  for  the 

Tribe  of  Benjamin  9  Palestine  at  the  time  of  Jesus  10  The  Jewish 

princedom 

Genealogies 

1  The  dukes  of  Guise  and  Lorraine  2  The  Merovingian  dynasty  the  kings  3 
The  Merovingian  dynasty  the  counts  of  Razes  4  The  Merovingian  dynasty 
the  lost  kings  5  The  families  of  Gisors,  Payen  and  Saint-Clair 


Figures 

1  The  Plantard  family  crest  2  The  cover  design  of  the  novel,  Circuit  3 

The  coat  of  arms  of  Rennes-leChdteau  4  The  official  device  of  the 


Prieure  de  Sion 

Acknowledgments 

We  should  like  particularly  to  thank  Ann  Evans,  without  whom  this  book 

could  not  have  been  written.  We  should  also  like  to  thank  the 

following:  Jehan  TAscuiz,  Robert  Beer,  Ean  Begg,  Dave  Bennett,  Colin 

Bloy,  Juliet  Burke, 

Henri  Buthion,  Jean-Luc  Chaumeil,  Philippe  de  Cherisey,  Jonathan 

Clowes, 

Shirley  Collins,  Chris  Cornford,  Painton  Cowan,  Roy  Davies,  Liz 

Flower, 

Janice  Glaholm,  John  Glover,  Liz  Greene,  Margaret  Hill,  Renee  Hinchley, 

Judy 

Holland,  Paul  Johnstone,  Patrick  Lichfield,  Douglas  Lockhart,  Guy 

Lovel, 

Jane  McGillivray,  Andrew  MaxwellHyslop,  Pam  Morris,  Lea  Olbinson, 

Pierre 

Plantard  de  Saint-Clair,  Bob  Roberts,  David  Rolfe,  John  Saul,  Gerard 

de 

Sede,  Rosalie  Siegel,  John  Sinclair,  Jeanne  Thomason,  Louis  Vazart, 

Colin 

Waldeck,  Anthony  Wall,  Andy  Whitaker,  the  staff  of  the  British  Museum 

Reading  Room  and  the  residents  of  Rennes-leChateau. 

Photographs  were  kindly  supplied  by  the  following:  AGRACI,  Paris,  35; 

Archives  Nationales,  Paris,  16a;  Michael  Baigent,  London,  1,  2,  5,  6,  7,  12,  14,  15,  17,  18, 

24,  25,  26,  30,  31,  33;  Bibliotheque  Nationale,  Paris,  27,  28,  29;  Michel  Bouffard, 

Carcassonne,  4;  W.  Braun,  Jerusalem,  11,  13; 

British  Library,  London,  9,  16b,  34;  British  Museum,  London  (reproduced 

by  courtesy  of  the  Trustees  of  the  British  Museum),  32;  Courtauld 

Institute  of 

Art,  London,  10;  Devonshire  Collection,  Chatsworth  (reproduced  by 

permission  of  the  Trustees  of  the  Chatsworth  Settlement),  21 ;  Jean 

Dieuzaide/YAN  photo,  Toulouse,  8;  Galleria  Nazionale  d'Arte  Antica,  Rome,  20;  Patrick 

Lichfield,  London,  23;  Henry  Lincoln,  London,  3; 

Musee  du 

Louvre,  Paris,  22;  Ost.  Nationalbibliothek,  Vienna,  19; 

Permission  to  quote  extracts  in  copyright  was  granted  by:  Le  Charivari 

magazine,  Paris  for  material  from  issue  no.  18,  "Les  Archives  du 

Prieure  de 


Sion';  Victor  Gollancz,  London  and  Harper  &  Row,  Publishers,  Inc,  New 

York  for  specified  material  on  pp.  334-36  from  pp.  14-17  in  The 

Secret  Gospel  by  Morton  Smith  copyright  1973  by  Morton  Smith;  Random 

House,  Inc."  New  York  for  material  from 

Parzival  by  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach,  translated  by  Helen  Mustard  and 

Charles 


E.  Passage,  copyright  1961  by  Helen  Mustard  and  Charles  Passage. 

Introduction 

In  1969,  en  route  for  a  summer  holiday  in  the  Cevennes,  I  made  the  casual  purchase  of  a 

paperback.  Le  Tresor  Maudit  by  Gerard  de  Sede  was  a  mystery  story  a  lightweight, 

entertaining  blend  of  historical  fact,  genuine  mystery  and  conjecture.  It  might  have 

remained  consigned  to  the  post-holiday  oblivion  of  all  such  reading  had  I  not  stumbled 

upon  a  curious  and  glaring  omission  in  its  pages. 

The  "accursed  treasure'  of  the  title  had  apparently  been  found  in  the  1890s  by  a  village 

priest  through  the  decipherment  of  certain  cryptic  documents  unearthed  in  his  church. 

Although  the  purported  texts  of  two  of  these  documents  were  reproduced,  the  "secret 

messages'  said  to  be  encoded  within  them  were  not.  The  implication  was  that  the 

deciphered  messages  had  again  been  lost.  And  yet,  as  I  found,  a  cursory  study  of  the 

documents  reproduced  in  the  book  reveals  at  least  one  concealed  message.  Surely  the 

author  had  found  it.  In  working  on  his  book  he  must  have  given  the  documents  more  than 

fleeting  attention.  He  was  bound,  therefore,  to  have  found  what  I  had  found.  Moreover 

the  message  was  exactly  the  kind  of  titillating  snippet  of  "proof  that  helps  to  sell  a  "pop' 

paperback.  Why  had  M.  de  Sede  not  published  it? 

During  the  ensuing  months  the  oddity  of  the  story  and  the  possibility 

of  further  discoveries  drew  me  back  to  it  from  time  to  time.  The 

appeal  was  that  of  a  rather  more  than  usually  intriguing  crossword 

puzzle  with  the  added  curiosity  of  de  Slide's  silence.  As  I  caught 

tantalising  new  glimpses  of  layers  of  meaning  buried  within  the  text  of 

the  documents,  I  began  to  wish  I  could  devote  more  to  the  mystery  of 

Rennes-leChateau  than  mere  moments  snatched  from  my  working  life  as  a 

writer  for  television.  And  so,  in  the  late  autumn  of  1970,  I  presented 

the  story  as  a  possible  documentary  subject  to  the  late  Paul  Johnstone, 


executive  producer  of  the  BBC's  historical  and  archaeological  series 
"Chronicle'. 

Paul  saw  the  possibilities,  and  I  was  dispatched  to  France  to  talk  to  de  Sede  and 
explore  the  prospects  for  a  short  film. 

During  Christmas  week  of  1970  I  met  de  Sede  in  Paris.  At  that  first  meeting,  I  asked  the 
question  which  had  nagged  at  me  for  more  than  a  year,  "Why  didn't  you  publish  the 
message  hidden  in  the  parchments?  "His  reply  astounded  me. 

"What  message?" 

It  seemed  to  me  inconceivable  that  he  was  unaware  of  this  elementary  message.  Why 

was  he  fencing  with  me?  Suddenly  I  found  myself  reluctant  to  reveal  exactly  what  I  had 

found.  We  continued  an  elliptical  verbal  fencing  match  for  a  few  minutes.  It  thus  became 

apparent  that  we  were  both  aware  of  the  message.  I  repeated  my  question,  "Why  didn't 

you  publish  it?"  This  time  de  Sede's  answer  was  calculated,  "Because  we  thought  it  might 

interest  someone  like  you  to  find  it  for  yourself." 

That  reply,  as  cryptic  as  the  priest's  mysterious  documents,  was  the  first  clear  hint  that  the 

mystery  of  RennesleChateau  was  to  prove  much  more  than  a  simple  tale  of  lost  treasure. 

With  my  director,  Andrew  Maxwell-Hyslop,  I  began  to  prepare  a 

"Chronicle'  film  in  the  spring  of  1 971 .  It  was  planned  as  a  simple 

twenty-minute  item  for  a  magazine  programme.  But  as  we  worked  de  Sede 

began  to  feed  us  further  fragments  of  information.  First  came  the  full 

text  of  a  major  encoded  message,  which  spoke  of  the  painters  Poussin 

and  Teniers.  This  was  fascinating.  The  cipher  was  unbelievably 

complex.  We  were  told  it  had  been  broken  by  experts  of  the  French  Army 

Cipher  Department,  using  computers.  As  I  studied  the  convolutions  of  the  code,  I  became 

convinced  that  this  explanation  was,  to  say  the  least,  suspect.  I  checked  with  cipher 

experts  of  British  Intelligence.  They  agreed  with  me.  "The  cipher  does  not  present  a  valid 

problem  for  a  computer,"  The  code  was  unbreakable.  Someone,  somewhere,  must  have 

the  key. 

And  then  de  Sede  dropped  his  second  bombshell.  A  tomb  resembling  that 

in  Poussin's  famous  painting,  "Les  Bergers  d'Arcadie',  had  been  found.  He 

would  send  details  "as  soon  as  he  had  them'.  Some  days  later  the 

photographs  arrived,  and  it  was  clear  that  our  short  film  on  a  small 

local  mystery  had  begun  to  assume  unexpected  dimensions.  Paul  decided 


to  abandon  it  and  committed  us  to  a  full-length  "Chronicle'  film.  Now 

there  would  be  more  time  to  research  and  more  screen  time  to  explore  the  story. 

Transmission  was  postponed  to  the  spring  of  the  following  year. 

The  Lost  Treasure  of  Jerusalem?  was  screened  in  February  1972,  and 

provoked  a  very  strong  reaction.  I  knew  that  I  had  found  a  subject  of 

consuming  interest  not  merely  to  myself,  but  to  a  very  large  viewing 

public.  Further  research  would  not  be  self-indulgence.  At  some  time 

there  would  have  to  be  a  follow-up  film.  By  1974  I  had  a  mass  of  new 

material  and  Paul  assigned  Roy  Davies  to  produce  my  second  "Chronicle'  film,  The  Priest, 

the  Painter  and  the  Devil.  Again  the  reaction  of  the  public  proved  how  much  the  story  had 

caught  the  popular  imagination.  But  by  now  it  had  grown  so  complex,  so  far  reaching  in 

its  ramifications,  that  I  knew  the  detailed  research  was  rapidly  exceeding  the  capabilities 

of  any  one  person.  There  were  too  many  different  leads  to  follow.  The  more  I  pursued 

one  line  of  investigation,  the  more  conscious  I  became  of  the  mass  of  material  being 

neglected.  It  was  at  this  daunting  juncture  that  Chance,  which  had  first  tossed  the  story  so 

casually  into  my  lap,  now  made  sure  that  the  work  would  not  become  bogged  down. 

In  1975,  at  a  summer  school  where  we  were  both  lecturing  on  aspects  of  literature,  I  had 

the  great  good  fortune  to  meet  Richard  Leigh. 

Richard  is  a  novelist  and  short-story  writer  with  post-graduate  degrees 

in  Comparative  Literature  and  a  deep  knowledge  of  history,  philosophy,  psychology  and 

esoterica.  He  had  been  working  for  some  years  as  a  university  lecturer  in  the  United 

States,  Canada  and  Britain. 

Between  our  summer-school  talks  we  spent  many  hours  discussing  subjects  of  mutual 

interest.  I  mentioned  the  Knights  Templar,  who  had  assumed  an  important  role  in  the 

background  to  the  mystery  of  Rennes-leChateau. 

To  my  delight,  I  found  that  this  shadowy  order  of  medieval 

warrior-monks  had  already  awakened  Richard's  profound  interest,  and  he 

had  done  considerable  research  into  their  history.  At  one  stroke 

months  of  work  which  I  had  seen  stretching  ahead  of  me  became 

unnecessary.  Richard  could  answer  most  of  my  queries,  and  was  as 


10 


intrigued  as  I  was  by  some  of  the  apparent  anomalies  I  had  unearthed. 

More  importantly,  he  too  saw  the  fascination  and  sensed  the 

significance  of  the  whole  research  project  on  which  I  had  embarked.  He 

offered  to  help  me  with  the  aspect  involving  the  Templars.  And  he 

brought  in  Michael  Baigent,  a  psychology  graduate  who  had  recently  abandoned  a 

successful  career  in  photo-journalism  to  devote  his  time  to  researching 

the  Templars  for  a  film  project  he  had  in  mind. 

Had  I  set  out  to  search  for  them,  I  could  not  have  found  two  better  qualified  and  more 
congenial  partners  with  whom  to  form  a  team.  After  years  of  solitary  labour  the  impetus 
brought  to  the  project  by  two  fresh  brains  was  exhilarating.  The  first  tangible  result  of  our 
collaboration  was  the  third  "Chronicle'  film  on  Rennes-leChateau,  The  Shadow  of  the 
Templars,  which  was  produced  by  Roy  Davies  in  1979. 

The  work  which  we  did  on  that  film  at  last  brought  us  face  to  face  with  the  underlying 

foundations  upon  which  the  entire  mystery  of  Rennes-leChateau  had  been  built.  But  the 

film  could  only  hint  at  what  we  were  beginning  to  discern.  Beneath  the  surface  was 

something  more  startling,  more  significant  and  more  immediately  relevant  than  we  could 

have  believed  possible  when  we  began  our  work  on  the  "intriguing  little  mystery'  of  what  a 

French  priest  might  have  found  in  a  mountain  village. 

In  1972  I  closed  my  first  film  with  the  words,  "Something  extraordinary  is  waiting  to  be 

found  ..  .  and  in  the  not  too  distant  future,  it  will  be." 

This  book  explains  what  that  'something'  is  and  how  extraordinary  the  discovering  has 

been. 


11 


7th 


H.L.  January  17  ,  1981  Map  1  The  Major  Sites  of  Investigation  in 
France 


BOUILLON  J, 

ORVAI:-., 

STE  NAY  "~ 

~  G150RS  i.5A;. R.Seine  "A_ 

PARIS 

NANCY 

TROYESSION-VAUDEMONT 

ORLEANS 

II  I 

SNEVERS 

CHATEAU  BARBER  IF  (RUINS) 

"L  Leman 

\ll//~  ' 

\~\lll~/1\\~lll//;  ~~\~\ON 

GENEV  y  jANNEMASSE  /-ST-JULIEN  -;'_ 

MASSIF  CENTRAL 

-  -  ago  El  n.  '  ill  i 

TOULOUSE  \~\_  CARCASSONNE  BIERS 
ALET-LFS-RAINS  r.  7-ARBONNE 
RENNES  LE-CHATEAU 
MONTS9GUR 


12 


One  The  Mystery 


13 


1  Village  of  Mystery 

At  the  start  of  our  search  we  did  not  know  precisely  what  we  were  looking  for  or,  for  that 

matter,  looking  at.  We  had  no  theories  and  no  hypotheses,  we  had  set  out  to  prove 

nothing.  On  the  contrary,  we  were  simply  trying  to  find  an  explanation  for  a  curious  little 

enigma  of  the  late  nineteenth  century.  The  conclusions  we  eventually  reached  were  not 

postulated  in  advance.  We  were  led  to  them,  step  by  step,  as  if  the  evidence  we 

accumulated  had  a  mind  of  its  own,  was  directing  us  of  its  own  accord. 

We  believed  at  first  that  we  were  dealing  with  a  strictly  local  mystery 

an  intriguing  mystery  certainly,  but  a  mystery  of  essentially  minor 

significance,  confined  to  a  village  in  the  south  of  France.  We 

believed  at  first  that  the  mystery,  although  it  involved  many 

fascinating  historical  strands,  was  primarily  of  academic  interest.  We 

believed  that  our  investigation  might  help  to  illumine  certain  aspects 

of  Western  history,  but  we  never  dreamed  that  it  might  entail 

re-writing  them.  Still  less  did  we  dream  that  whatever  we  discovered 

could  be  of  any  real  contemporary  relevance  and  explosive  contemporary  relevance  at 

that. 

Our  quest  began  -for  it  was  indeed  a  quest  with  a  more  or  less 
straightforward  story.  At  first  glance  this  story  was  not  markedly 
different  from  numerous  other  "treasure  stories'  or  "unsolved 
mysteries'  which  abound  in  the  history  and  folklore  of  almost  every 
rural  region.  A  version  of  it  had  been  publici  sed  in  France,  where  it 
attracted  considerable  interest  but  was  not  to  our  knowledge  at  the 
time  accorded  any  inordinate  consequence.  As  we  subsequently  learned, 
there  were  a  number  of  errors  in  this  version.  For  the  moment, 
however,  we  must  recount  the  tale  as  it  was  published  during  the  1 960s, 


14 


and  as  we  first  came  to  know  of  it."  Rennes-leChateau  and  Berenger 

Sauniere 

On  June  1st,  1885  the  tiny  French  village  of  Rennes-leChateau  received 

a  new  parish  priest.  The  cure's  name  was  Berenger  Sauniere. z  He  was  a 

robust,  handsome,  energetic  and,  it  would  seem,  highly  intelligent  man 

aged  thirty-three.  In  seminary  school  not  long  before  he  had  seemed 

destined  for  a  promising  clerical  career.  Certainly  he  had  seemed 

destined  for  something  more  important  than  a  remote  village  in  the 

eastern  foothills  of  the 

Pyrenees.  Yet  at  some  point  he  seems  to  have  incurred  the  displeasure  of  his  superiors. 

What  precisely  he  did,  if  anything,  remains  unclear,  but  it  soon  thwarted  all  prospects  of 

advancement.  And  it  was  perhaps  to  rid  themselves  of  him  that'  his  superiors  sent  him  to 

the  parish  of  Rennes-leChateau. 

At  the  time  Rennes-leChateau  housed  only  two  hundred  people.  It  was  a 

tiny  hamlet  perched  on  a  steep  mountaintop,  approximately  twenty-five 

miles  from 

Carcassonne. 

To  another  man,  the  place  might  have  constituted  exile  a  life  sentence  in  a  remote 
provincial  backwater,  far  from  the  civilised  amenities  of  the  age,  far  from  any  stimulus  for 
an  eager  and  inquiring  mind.  No  doubt  it  was  a  blow  to  Sauniere's  ambition. 
Nevertheless  there  were  certain  compensations.  Sauniere  was  a  native  of  the  region, 
having  been  born  and  raised  only  a  few  miles  distant,  in  the  village  of  Montazels. 
Whatever  its  deficiencies,  therefore,  Rennes-leChateau  must  have  been  very  like  home, 
with  all  the  comforts  of  childhood  familiarity. 

Between  1885  and  1891  Sauniere's  income  averaged,  in  francs,  the  equivalent  of  six 
pounds  sterling  per  year  -hardly  opulence,  but  pretty  much  what  one  would  expect  for  a 
rural  cure  in  late  nineteenth-century  France.  Together  with  gratuities  provided  by  his 
parishioners,  it  appears  to  have  been  sufficient  for  survival,  if  not  for  any  extravagance. 
During  those  six  years  Sauniere  seems  to  have  led  a  pleasant  enough  life,  and  a  placid 
one. 

He  hunted  and  fished  in  the  mountains  and  streams  of  his  boyhood.  He 
read  voraciously,  perfected  his  Latin,  learned  Greek,  embarked  on  the 
study  of 

Hebrew.  He  employed,  as  housekeeper  and  servant,  an  eighteen-year  old 
peasant  girl  named  Marie  Denarnaud,  who  was  to  be  his  lifelong 


15 


companion  and  confidante.  He  paid  frequent  visits  to  his  friend,  the 

Abbe  Henri  Boudet,  cure-of  the  neighbouring  village  of 

Rennes-les-Bains.  And  under  Boudet's  tutelage  he  immersed  himself  in  the  turbulent 

history  of  the  region  a  history  whose  residues  were  constantly  present  around  him. 

A  few  miles  to  the  south-east  of  Rennes-leChateau,  for  example,  looms 

another  peak,  called  Bezu,  surmounted  by  the  ruins  of  a  medieval 

fortress,  which  was  once  a  preceptory  of  the  Knights  Templar.  On  a 

third  peak,  a  mile  or  so  east  of  Rennes-leChateau,  stand  the  ruins  of 

the  chateau  of 

Blanchefort,  ancestral  home  of  Bertrand  de  Blanchefort,  fourth  Grand 

Master  of  the  Knights  Templar,  who  presided  over  that  famous  order  in 

the  mid-twelfth  century.  Rennes-leChateau  and  its  environs  had  been  on 

the  ancient  pilgrim  route,  which  ran  from  Northern  Europe  to  Santiago 

de 

Compastela  in  Spain.  And  the  entire  region  was  steeped  in  evocative 

legends,  in  echoes  of  a  rich,  dramatic  and  often  bloodsoaked  past, 

For  some  time  Sauniere  had  wanted  to  restore  the  village  church  of 

Rennes-leChateau.  Consecrated  to  the  Magdalene  in  1059,  this  dilapidated  edifice  stood 

on  the  foundations  of  a  still  older  Visigoth  structure  dating  from  the  sixth  century.  By  the 

late  nineteenth  century  it  was,  not  surprisingly,  in  a  state  of  almost  hopeless  disrepair. 

In  1891,  encouraged  by  his  friend  Boudet,  Sauniere  embarked  on  a  modest 

restoration,  borrowing  a  small  sum  from  the  village  funds.  In  the 

course  of  his  endeavours  he  removed  the  altar-stone,  which  rested  on 

two  archaic 

Visigoth  columns. 

One  of  these  columns  proved  to  be  hollow.  Inside 

the  cure  found  four  parchments  preserved  in  sealed  wooden  tubes.  Two 

of  these  parchments  are  said  to  have  comprised  genealogies,  one  dating 

from  1244,  the  other  from  1644.  The  two  remaining  documents  had 

apparently  been  composed  in  the  1780s  by  one  of  Sauniere's  predecessors 

as  cure  of 

Rennes-leChateau,  the  Abbe  Antoine  Bigou.  Bigou  had  also  been  personal 

chaplain  to  the  noble  Blanchefort  family  who,  on  the  eve  of  the 

French 

Revolution,  were  still  among  the  most  prominent  local  landowners. 

The  two  parchments  from  Bigou's  time  would  appear  to  be  pious  Latin 

texts,  excerpts  from  the  New  Testament.  At  least  ostensibly.  But  on 

one  of  the  parchments  the  words  are  run  incoherently  together,  with  no 


16 


space  between  them,  and  a  number  of  utterly  superfluous  letters  have 

been  inserted.  And  on  the  second  parchment  lines  are  indiscriminately 

truncated  unevenly,  sometimes  in  the  middle  of  a  word  while  certain 

letters  are  conspicuously  raised  above  the  others.  In  reality  these 

parchments  comprise  a  sequence  of  ingenious  ciphers  or  codes.  Some  of 

them  are  fantastically  complex  and  unpredictable,  defying  even  a 

computer,  and  insoluble  without  the  requisite  key.  The  following 

decipherment  has  appeared  in  French  works  devoted  to 

Rennes-leChateau,  and  in  two  of  our  films  on  the  subject  made  for  the 

BBC. 

BERG  ERE  PAS  DE  TENTATION  QUE  POUSSIN  TENIERS  GAR  DENT  LA  CLEF  PAX 

DCLXXXI  PAR 

LA  CROIX  ET  CE  CHEVAL  DE  DIEU  J'ACHEVE  CE  DAEMON  DE  GARDIEN  A  MIDI 

POM  MES 

BLEUES 

(SHEPHERDESS,  NO  TEMPTATION.  THAT  POUSSIN,  TENIERS,  HOLD  THE  KEY; 

PEACE 

681 .   BY  THE  CROSS  AND  THIS  HORSE  OF  GOD,  I  COMPLETE  or  DESTROY  THIS 

DAEMON  OF  THE  GUARDIAN  AT  NOON.   BLUE  APPLES.) 

But  if  some  of  the  ciphers  are  daunting  in  their  complexity,  others  are  patently,  even 

flagrantly  obvious.  In  the  second  parchment,  for  instance,  the  raised  letters,  taken  in 

sequence,  spell  out  a  coherent  message. 

A  DAGO  BERT  II  ROI  ET  A  SION  EST  CE  TRES  OR  ET  IL  EST  LA  MORT. 

(TO  DAGO  BERT  II,  KING,  AND  TO  SION  BELONGS  THIS  TREASURE  AND  HE  IS 

THERE 

DEAD.) 

Although  this  particular  message  must  have  been  discernible  to  Sauniere,  it  is  doubtful 

that  he  could  have  deciphered  the  more  intricate  codes. 

Nevertheless,  he  realised  he  had  stumbled  upon  something  of  consequence 

and,  with  the  consent  of  the  village  mayor,  brought  his  discovery  to 

his  superior,  the  bishop  of  Carcassonne.  How  much  the  bishop 

understood  is  unclear,  but  Sauniere  was  immediately  dispatched  to  Paris 

at  the  bishop's  expense  with  instructions  to  present  himself  and  the 

parchments  to  certain  important  ecclesiastic  authorities.  Chief  among 

these  were  the  Abbe 

Bieil,  Director  General  of  the  Seminary  of  Saint  Sulpice,  and  Bieil's  nephew,  Emile  Hoffet. 

At  the  time  Hoffet  was  training  for  the  priesthood. 

Although  still  in  his  early  twenties,  he  had  already  established  an 


17 


impressive  reputation  for  scholarship,  especially  in  linguistics, 

cryptography  and  palaeography.  Despite  his  pastoral  vocation,  he  was 

known  to  be  immersed  in  esoteric  thought,  and  maintained  cordial 

relations  with  the  various  occult-oriented  groups,  sects  and  secret 

societies  which  were  proliferating  in  the  French  capital.  This  had 

brought  him  into  contact  with  an  illustrious  cultural  circle,  which 

included  such  literary  figures  as  Stephane  Mallarme  and  Maurice 

Maeterlinck,  as  well  as  the  composer  Claude  Debussy.  He  also  knew  Emma 

Calve,  who,  at  the  time  of 

Sauniere's  appearance,  had  just  returned  from  triumphant  performances 

in 

London  and  Windsor. 

As  a  diva,  Emma  Calve  was  the  Maria  Callas  of  her  age. 

At  the  same  time  she  was  a  high  priestess  of  Parisian  esoteric  sub-culture,  and  sustained 

amorous  liaisons  with  a  number  of  influential  occultists. 

Having  presented  himself  to  Bieil  and  Hoffet,  Sauniere  spent  three 

weeks  in 

Paris.  What  transpired  during  his  meetings  with  the  ecclesiastics  is  unknown.  What  is 

known  is  that  the  provincial  country  priest  was  promptly  and  warmly  welcomed  into 

Hoffet's  distinguished  circle.  It  has  even  been  asserted  that  he  became  Emma  Calves 

lover.  Contemporary  gossips  spoke  of  an  affair  between  them,  and  one  acquaintance  of 

the  singer  described  her  as  being  "obsessed'  with  the  cure.  In  any  case  there  is  no 

question  but  that  they  enjoyed  a  close  enduring  friendship.  In  the  years  that  followed  she 

visited  him  frequently  in  the  vicinity  of  Rennes-leChateau,  where,  until  recently,  one  could 

still  find  romantic  hearts  carved  into  the  rocks  of  the  mountainside,  bearing  their  initials. 

During  his  stay  in  Paris,  Sauniere  also  spent  some  time  in  the  Louvre. 

This  may  well  be  connected  with  the  fact  that,  before  his  departure,  he 

purchased  reproductions  of  three  paintings.  One  seems  to  have  been  a 

portrait,  by  an  unidentified  artist,  of  Pope  Celestin  V,  who  reigned 

briefly  at  the  end  of  the  thirteenth  century.  One  was  a  work  by 

David 

Teniers  although  it  is  not  clear  which  David  Teniers,  father  or  son. 3  The  third  was  perhaps 

the  most  famous  tableau  by  Nicolas  Poussin,  "Les  Bergers  d'Arcadie'  -  "The  Shepherds  of 

Arcadia'. 

On  his  return  to  Rennes-leChateau,  Sauniere  resumed  his  restoration  of 

the  village  church.  In  the  process  he  exhumed  a  curiously  carved 

flagstone,  dating  from  the  seventh  or  eighth  century,  which  may  have 


18 


had  a  crypt  beneath  it,  a  burial  chamber  in  which  skeletons  were  said 

to  have  been  found.  Sauniere  also  embarked  on  projects  of  a  rather 

more  singular  kind.  In  the  churchyard,  for  example,  stood  the 

sepulchre  of  Marie,  Marquise  d'Hautpoul  de  Blanchefort.  The  headstone 

and  flagstone  marking  her  grave  had  been  designed  and  installed  by  the 

Abbe  Antoine  Bigou  -  Sauniere's  predecessor  of  a  century  before,  who 

had  apparently  composed  two  of  the  mysterious  parchments.  And  the 

headstone's  inscription  which  included  a  number  of  deliberate  errors  in 

spacing  and  spelling  was  a  perfect  anagram  for  the  message  concealed  in 

the  parchments  referring  to  Poussin  and 

Teniers.  If  one  rearranges  the  letters,  they  will  form  the  cryptic  statement  quoted  above 

alluding  to  Poussin  and  to  Sion  (see  p. 26);  and  the  errors  seem  to  have  been  contrived 

precisely  to  make  them  do  so. 

Not  knowing  that  the  inscriptions  on  the  marquise's  tomb  had  already 

been  copied,  Sauniere  obliterated  them.  Nor  was  this  desecration  the 

only  curious  behaviour  he  exhibited.  Accompanied  by  his  faithful 

housekeeper,  he  began  to  make  long  journeys  on  foot  about  the 

countryside,  collecting  rocks  of  no  apparent  value  or  interest.  He 

also  embarked  on  a  voluminous  exchange  of  letters  with  unknown 

correspondents  throughout  France,  as  well  as  in 

Germany,  Switzerland,  Italy,  Austria  and  Spain.  He  took  to  collecting  stacks  of  utterly 

worthless  postage  stamps.  And  he  opened  certain  shadowy  transactions  with  various 

banks.  One  of  them  even  dispatched  a  representative  from  Paris,  who  travelled  all  the 

way  to  Rennes-leChateau  for  the  sole  purpose  of  ministering  to  Sauniere's  business. 

In  postage  alone  Sauniere  was  already  spending  a  substantial  sum  more  than  his 

previous  annual  income  could  possibly  sustain.  Then,  in  1896,  he  began  to  spend  in 

earnest,  on  a  staggering  and  unprecedented  scale.  By  the  end  of  his  life  in  1917  his 

expenditure  would  amount  to  the  equivalent  of  several  million  pounds  at  least. 

Some  of  this  unexplained  wealth  was  devoted  to  laudable  public  works  a 

modern  road  was  built  leading  up  to  the  village,  for  example,  and 

facilities  for  running  water  were  provided.  Other  expenditures  were 

more  quixotic.  A  tower  was  built,  the  Tour  Magdala,  overlooking  the 

called  the  Villa 


19 


Bethania,  which  Sauniere  himself  never  occupied.  And  the  church  was 

not  only  redecorated,  but  redecorated  in  a  most  bizarre  fashion.  A  Latin  inscription  was 

incised  in  the  porch  lintel  above  the  entrance: 

TERRIBILIS  EST  LOCUS  ISTE 

(THIS  PLACE  IS  TERRIBLE) 

Immediately  inside  the  entrance  a  hideous  statue  was  erected,  a  gaudy 

representation  of  the  demon  Asmodeus  -custodian  of  secrets,  guardian  of 

hidden  treasures  and,  according  to  ancient  Judaic  legend,  builder  of 

Solomon's  Temple.  On  the  church  walls  lurid,  garishly  painted  plaques  were  installed 

depicting  the  Stations  of  the  Cross  each  was  characterised  by  some  odd  inconsistency, 

some  inexplicable  added  detail,  some  flagrant  or  subtle  deviation  from  accepted  Scriptural 

account.  In  Station  VIII  for  example,  there  is  a  child  swathed  in  a  Scottish  plaid.  In 

Station  XIV,  which  portrays  Jesus's  body  being  carried  into  the  tomb,  there  is  a 

background  of  dark  nocturnal  sky,  dominated  by  a  full  moon.  It  is  almost  as  if  Sauniere 

were  trying  to  intimate  something.  But  what?  That  Jesus's  burial  occurred  after  nightfall, 

several  hours  later  than  the  Bible  tells  us  it  did?  Or  that  the  body  is  being  carried  out  of 

the  tomb,  not  into  it? 

While  engaged  in  this  curious  adornment,  Sauniere  continued  to  spend  extravagantly.  He 

collected  rare  china,  precious  fabrics,  antique  marbles. 

He  created  an  orangery  and  a  zoological  garden.  He  assembled  a  magnificent  library. 

Shortly  before  his  death,  he  was  allegedly  planning  to  build  a  massive  Babel-like  tower 

lined  with  books,  from  which  he  intended  to  preach.  Nor  were  his  parishioners  neglected. 

Sauniere  regaled  them  with  sumptuous  banquets  and  other  forms  of 

largesse,  maintaining  the  life-style  of  a  medieval  potentate  presiding 

over  an  impregnable  mountain  domain.  In  his  remote  and  well-nigh 

inaccessible  eyrie  he  received  a  number  of  notable  guests.  One,  of 

course,  was  Emma  Calve.  One  was  the  French  Secretary  of 

State  for  Culture.  But  perhaps  the  most  august  and  consequential 

visitor  to  the  unknown  country  priest  was  the  Archduke  Johann  von 

Habsburg,  a  cousin  of  Franz-Josef,  Emperor  of  Austria.  Bank  statements 

subsequently  revealed  that  Sauniere  and  the  archduke  had  opened 


20 


consecutive  accounts  on  the  same  day,  and  that  the  latter  had  made  a 
substantial  sum  over  to  the  former. 

The  ecclesiastical  authorities  at  first  turned  a  blind  eye.  When  Sauniere's  former  superior 
at  Carcassonne  died,  however,  the  new  bishop  attempted  to  call  the  priest  to  account. 
Sauniere  responded  with  startling  and  brazen  defiance.  He  refused  to  explain  his  wealth. 
He  refused  to  accept  the  transfer  the  bishop  ordered.  Lacking  any  more  substantial 
charge,  the  bishop  accused  him  of  simony  -illicitly  selling  masses  and  a  local  tribunal 
suspended  him.  Sauniere  appealed  to  the  Vatican,  which  exonerated  and  reinstated  him. 
On  January  17th,  1917,  Sauniere,  then  in  his  sixty-fifth  year,  suffered  a  sudden  stroke. 
The  date  of  January  17th  is  perhaps  suspicious.  The  same  date  appears  on  the 
tombstone  of  the  Marquise  d'Hautpoul  de  Blanchefort  -the  tombstone  Sauniere  had 
eradicated.  And  January  17th  is  also  the  feast  day  of  Saint  Sulpice,  who,  as  we  were  to 
discover,  figured  throughout  our  story.  It  was  at  the  Seminary  of  Saint  Sulpice  that  he 
confided  his  parchments  to  the  Abbe  Bieil  and  tmile  Hoffet.  But  what  makes  Sauniere's 
stroke  on  January  1 7th  most  suspicious  is  the  fact  that  five  days  before,  on  January  1 2th , 
his  parishioners  declared  that  he  had  seemed  to  be  in  enviable  health  for  a  man  of  his 
age.  Yet  on  January  12th,  according  to  a  receipt  in  our  possession,  Marie  Denarnaud  had 
ordered  a  coffin  for  her  master. 

As  Sauniere  lay  on  his  deathbed,  a  priest  was  called  from  a  neighbouring  parish  to  hear 
his  final  confession  and  administer  the  last  rites.  The  priest  duly  arrived  and  retired  into 
the  sick-room.  According  to  eye-witness  testimony,  he  emerged  shortly  thereafter,  visibly 
shaken.  In  the  words  of  one  account  he  "never  smiled  again'.  In  the  words  of  another  he 
lapsed  into  an  acute  depression  that  lasted  for  several  months.  Whether  these  accounts 
are  exaggerated  or  not,  the  priest,  presumably  on  the  basis  of  Sauniere's  confession, 
refused  to  administer  extreme  unction. 

On  January  22nd  Sauniere  died  un  shriven  The  following  morning  his 
body  was  placed  upright  in  an  armchair  on  the  terrace  of  the  Tour 
Magdala,  clad  in  an  ornate  robe  adorned  with  scarlet  tassels.  One  by 


21 


one,  certain  unidentified  mourners  filed  past,  many  of  them  Map  2 

Rennes-leChiteau  and  its  Environs 

0  KILOMETRES5 

LIMOUX 

O  ALET-LES-RAINS 

ARQUFS 

"POVI71D1  tomb' 

FSPtRAZACOUIZAR.il 

COBLACHEPORT 

P~  RENNES-LE-CHATEAURENNES-LES-BAINS 

LAVALDIEU 

kB  ~~  l/'o  P4oLE  Bezu 

QUILL  AN 


22 


plucking  tassels  of  remembrance  from  the  dead  man's  garment.  There 

has  never  been  any  explanation  of  this  ceremony.  Present-day  residents 

of 

Rennes-leChateau  are  as  mystified  by  it  as  everyone  else. 

The  reading  of  Sauniere's  will  was  awaited  with  great  anticipation.  To  everyone's  surprise 

and  chagrin,  however,  it  declared  him  to  be  utterly  penniless.  At  some  point  before  his 

death  he  had  apparently  transferred  the  whole  of  his  wealth  to  Marie  Denarnaud,  who  had 

shared  his  life  and  secrets  for  thirty-two  years.  Or  perhaps  most  of  that  wealth  had  been 

in  Marie's  name  from  the  very  beginning. 

Following  the  death  of  her  master,  Marie  continued  to  live  a  comfortable  life  in  the  Villa 

Bethania  until  1946.  After  the  Second  World  War,  however,  the  newly  installed  French 

government  issued  a  new  currency.  As  a  means  of  apprehending  tax-evaders, 

collaborators  and  wartime  profiteers,  French  citizens,  when  exchanging  old  francs  for  new, 

were  obliged  to  account  for  their  revenues.  Confronted  by  the  prospect  of  an  explanation, 

Marie  chose  poverty.  She  was  seen  in  the  garden  of  the  villa,  burning  vast  sheaves  of  old 

franc  notes. 

For  the  next  seven  years  Marie  lived  austerely,  supporting  herself  on 

money  obtained  from  the  sale  of  Villa  Bethania.  She  promised  the 

purchaser, 

Monsieur  Noel  Corbu,  that  she  would  confide  to  him,  before  her  death,  a  "secret'  which 

would  make  him  not  only  rich  but  also  "powerful'.  On  January  29th,  1953,  however,  Marie, 

like  her  master  before  her,  suffered  a  sudden  and  unexpected  stroke  which  left  her 

prostrate  on  her  deathbed,  incapable  of  speech.  To  Monsieur  Corbu's  intense  frustration, 

she  died  shortly  thereafter,  carrying  her  secret  with  her. 

The  Possible  Treasures 

This,  in  its  general  outlines,  was  the  story  published  in  France  during  the  1960s.  This  was 

the  form  in  which  we  first  became  acquainted  with  it.  And  it  was  to  the  questions  raised  by 

the  story  in  this  form  that  we,  like  other  researchers  of  the  subject,  addressed  ourselves. 


23 


The  first  question  is  fairly  obvious.  What  was  the  source  of 

Sauni&re's  money?  Whence  could  such  sudden  and  enormous  wealth  have  come?  Was 

the  explanation  ultimately  banal?  Or  was  there  something  more  exciting  involved?  The 

latter  possibility  imparted  a  tantalising  quality  to  the  mystery,  and  we  could  not  resist  the 

impulse  to  play  detectives. 

We  began  by  considering  the  explanations  suggested  by  other  researchers. 

According  to  many  of  these,  Sauniere  had  indeed  found  a  treasure  of  some  kind.  This 

was  a  plausible  enough  assumption,  for  the  history  of  the  village  and  its  environs  includes 

many  possible  sources  of  hidden  gold  or  jewels. 

In  prehistoric  times,  for  example,  the  area  around  Rennes-leChateau  was  regarded  as  a 

sacred  site  by  the  Celtic  tribes  who  lived  there;  and  the  village  itself,  once  called  Rhedae, 

derived  its  name  from  one  of  these  tribes.  In  Roman  times  the  area  was  a  large  and 

thriving  community,  important  for  its  mines  and  therapeutic  hot  springs.  And  the  Romans, 

too,  regarded  the  site  as  sacred.  Later  researchers  have  found  traces  of  several  pagan 

temples. 

During  the  sixth  century,  the  little  mountain-top  village  was 

supposedly  a  town  with  30,000  inhabitants.  At  one  point  it  seems  to 

have  been  the  northern  capital  of  the  empire  ruled  by  the  Visigoths  the 

Teutonic  people  who  had  swept  westwards  from  Central  Europe,  sacked 

Rome,  toppled  the  Roman 

Empire  and  established  their  own  domain  straddling  the  Pyrenees. 

For  another  five  hundred  years  the  town  remained  the  seat  of  an 

important  county,  or  comte,  the  Comte  of  Razes.  Then,  at  the  beginning 

of  the  thirteenth  century,  an  army  of  northern  knights  descended  on  the 

Languedoc  to  stamp  out  the  Cathar  or  Albigensian  heresy  and  claim  the 

rich  spoils  of  the  region  for  themselves.  During  the  atrocities  of  the 

so-called 

Albigensian  Crusade,  Rennes-leChateau  was  captured  and  transferred  from  hand  to  hand 

as  a  fief.  A  century  and  a  quarter  later,  in  the  1360s,  the  local  population  was  decimated 

by  plague;  and  Rennes-leChateau  was  destroyed  shortly  thereafter  by  roving  Catalan 

bandits." 

Tales  of  fantastic  treasure  are  interwoven  with  many  of  these 

historical  vicissitudes.  The  Cathar  heretics,  for  example,  were 


24 


reputed  to  possess  something  of  fabulous  and  even  sacred  value  which, 

according  to  a  number  of  legends,  was  the 

Holy  Grail.  These  legends  reportedly  impelled  Richard  Wagner  to  make  a 

pilgrimage  to  RennesleChateau  before  composing  his  last  opera, 

Parsifal;  and  during  the  occupation  of  1940-45  German  troops,  following 

in  Wagner's  wake,  are  said  to  have  undertaken  a  number  of  fruitless 

excavations  in  the  vicinity.  There  was  also  the  vanished  treasure  of 

the  Knights  Templar,  whose 

Grand  Master,  Bertrand  de  Blanchefort,  commissioned  certain  mysterious  excavations  in 

the  vicinity.  According  to  all  accounts,  these  excavations  were  of  a  markedly  clandestine 

nature,  performed  by  a  specially  imported  contingent  of  German  miners.  If  some  kind  of 

Templar  treasure  were  indeed  concealed  around  Rennes-leChateau,  this  might  explain 

the  reference  to  "Sion'  in  the  parchments  discovered  by  Sauniere. 

There  were  other  possible  treasures  as  well.  Between  the  fifth  and 

dynasty,  which  included  King  Dagobert  II.  Rennes-leChateau,  in 

Dagobert's  time,  was  a 

Visigoth  bastion,  and  Dagobert  himself  was  married  to  a  Visigoth  princess. 

The  town  might  have  constituted  a  sort  of  royal  treasury;  and  there  are 

documents  which  speak  of  great  wealth  amassed  by  Dagobert  for  military 

conquest  and  concealed  in  the  environs  of  Rennes-leChateau.  If 

Sauniere  discovered  some  such  depository,  it  would  explain  the 

reference  in  the  codes  to  Dagobert. 

The  Cathars.  The  Templars.  Dagobert  II.  And  there  was  yet  another  possible  treasure 
the  vast  booty  accumulated  by  the  Visigoths  during  their  tempestuous  advance  through 
Europe.  This  might  have  included  something  more  than  conventional  booty,  possibly 
items  of  immense  relevance  both  symbolic  and  literal  to  Western  religious  tradition.  It 
might,  in  short,  have  included  the  legendary  treasure  of  the  Temple  of  Jerusalem  which, 
even  more  than  the  Knights  Templar,  would  warrant  the  references  to  "Sion'. 
In  A.D.  66  Palestine  rose  in  revolt  against  the  Roman  yoke.  Four  years 
later,  in  A.D.  70,  Jerusalem  was  razed  by  the  legions  of  the  emperor, 
under  the  command  of  his  son,  Titus.  The  Temple  itself  was  sacked  and 
the  contents  of  the  Holy  of  Holies  carried  back  to  Rome.  As  they  are 


25 


depicted  on  Titus's  triumphal  arch,  these  included  the  immense  gold 

seven-branched  candelabrum  so  sacred  to  Judaism,  and  possibly  even  the  Ark  of  the 

Covenant. 

Three  and  a  half  centuries  later,  in  A.D.  410,  Rome  in  her  turn  was 

sacked  by  the  invading  Visigoths  under  Alaric  the  Great,  who  pillaged 

virtually  the  entire  wealth  of  the  Eternal  City.  As  the  historian 

Procopius  tells  us, 

Alaric  made  off  with  "the  treasures  of  Solomon,  the  King  of  the 

Hebrews,  a  sight  most  worthy  to  be  seen,  for  they  were  adorned  in  the 

most  part  with  emeralds  and  in  the  olden  time  they  had  been  taken  from 

Jerusalem  by  the 

Romans. "5 

Treasure,  then,  may  well  have  been  the  source  of  Sauniere's  unexplained 

wealth.  The  priest  may  have  discovered  any  of  several  treasures,  or  he 

may  have  discovered  a  single  treasure  which  repeatedly  changed  hands 

through  the  centuries  passing  perhaps  from  the  Temple  of  Jerusalem,  to 

the 

Romans,  to  the  Visigoths,  eventually  to  the  Cathars  and/or  the 

Knights 

Templar.  If  this  were  so,  it  would  explain  why  the  treasure  in  question  "belonged'  both  to 

Dagobert  II  and  to  Sion. 

Thus  far  our  story  seemed  to  be  essentially  a  treasure  story.  And  a  treasure  story  even 

one  involving  the  treasure  of  the  Temple  of  Jerusalem  is  ultimately  of  limited  relevance 

and  significance.  People  are  constantly  discovering  treasures  of  one  kind  or  another. 

Such  discoveries  are  often  exciting,  dramatic  and  mysterious,  and  many  of  them  cast 

important  illumination  on  the  past.  Few  of  them,  however,  exercise  any  direct  influence, 

political  or  otherwise,  on  the  present  unless,  of  course,  the  treasure  in  question  includes  a 

secret  of  some  sort,  and  possibly  an  explosive  one. 

We  did  not  discount  the  argument  that  Sauniere  discovered  treasure.  At 

the  same  time  it  seemed  clear  to  us  that,  whatever  else  he  discovered, 

he  also  discovered  a  secret  an  historical  secret  of  immense  import  to 

his  own  time  and  perhaps  to  our  own  as  well.  Mere  money,  gold  or 

jewels  would  not,  in  themselves,  explain  a  number  of  facets  to  his 

story.  They  would  not  account  for  his  introduction  to  Hoffet's  circle, 

for  instance,  his  association  with  Debussy  and  his  liaison  with  Emma 

Calve.  They  would  not  explain  the  Church's  intense  interest  in  the 

matter,  the  impunity  with  which  Sauniere  defied  his  bishop  or  his 

subsequent  exoneration  by  the 


26 


Vatican,  which  seemed  to  have  displayed  an  urgent  concern  of  its  own. 

They  would  not  explain  a  priest's  refusal  to  administer  the  last  rites 

to  a  dying  man,  or  the  visit  of  a  Habsburg  archduke  to  a  remote  little 

village  in  the  Pyrenees.  The  Habsburg  archduke  in  question  has  since 

been  revealed  as  Johann  Salvator  von  Habsburg,  known  by  the  pseudonym 

of  Jean 

Orth.  He  renounced  all  his  rights  and  titles  in  1889  and  within  two  months  had  been 

banished  from  all  the  territories  of  the  Empire.  It  was  shortly  after  this  that  he  first 

appeared  in  Rennes  le  Chateau. 

Said  officially  to  have  died  in  1890  but  in  fact  died  in  Argentina  in 

1910  or  1911.  See  Les 

Maisons  Souveraines  de  L'Autriche  by  Dr.  Dugast  ROullle,  Paris,  1967,  page  191.  Nor 

would  money,  gold  or  jewels  explain  the  powerful  aura  of  mystification  surrounding  the 

whole  affair,  from  the  elaborate  coded  ciphers  to  Marie  Denarnaud  burning  her  inheritance 

of  banknotes.  And  Marie  herself  had  promised  to  divulge  a  'secret'  which  conferred  not 

merely  wealth  but  'power'  as  well. 

On  these  grounds  we  grew  increasingly  convinced  that  Sauniere's  story 

involved  more  than  riches,  and  that  it  involved  a  secret  of  some  kind, 

one  that  was  almost  certainly  controversial.  In  other  words  it  seemed 

to  us  that  the  mystery  was  not  confined  to  a  remote  backwater  village 

and  nineteenth-century  priest.  Whatever  it  was,  it  appeared  to  radiate 

out  from 

Rennes-leChateau  and  produce  ripples  perhaps  even  a  potential  tidal  wave  in  the  world 

beyond.  Could  Sauniere's  wealth  have  come  not  from  anything  of  intrinsic  financial  value, 

but  from  knowledge  of  some  kind?  If  so,  could  this  knowledge  have  been  turned  to  fiscal 

account?  Could  it  have  been  used  to  blackmail  somebody,  for  example?  Could 

Sauniere's  wealth  have  been  his  payment  for  silence? 

We  knew  that  he  had  received  money  from  Johann  von  Habsburg.  At  the 

same  time,  however,  the  priest's  'secret',  whatever  it  was,  seemed  to 

be  more  religious  in  nature  than  political.  Moreover,  his  relations 

with  the 

Austrian  archduke,  according  to  all  accounts,  were  notably  cordial.  On 

later  career,  seems  to  have  been  distinctly  afraid  of  him,  and  to  have 

treated  him  with  kid  gloves  the  Vatican.  Could  Sauniere  have  been 

blackmailing  the  Vatican?  Granted  such  blackmail  would  be  a 


27 


presumptuous  and  dangerous  undertaking  for  one  man,  however  exhaustive 

his  precautions.  But  what  if  he  were  aided  and  supported  in  his 

enterprise  by  others,  whose  eminence  rendered  them  inviolable  to  the 

church,  like  the  French  Secretary  of  State  for  Culture,  or  the 

Habsburgs?  What  if  the  Archduke  Johann  were  only  an  intermediary,  and 

the  money  he  bestowed  on  Sauniere  actually  issued  from  the  coffers  of 

Rome?s 

The  Intrigue 

In  February  1972  The  Lost  Treasure  of  Jerusalem?"  the  first  of  our  three  films  on 

Sauniere  and  the  mystery  of  Rennes-leChateau,  was  shown. 

The  film  made  no  controversial  assertions,  it  simply  told  the  'basic 

story'  as  it  has  been  recounted  in  the  preceding  pages,  Nor  was  there 

any  speculation  about  an  'explosive  secret'  or  highlevel  blackmail.  It 

is  also  worth  mentioning  that  the  film  did  not  cite  smile  Hoffet  the 

young  clerical  scholar  in 

Paris  to  whom  Sauniere  confided  his  parchments  by  name. 

Not  surprisingly  perhaps,  we  received  a  veritable  deluge  of  mail.  Some  of  it  offered 

intriguing  speculative  suggestions.  Some  of  it  was  complimentary.  Some  of  it  was  dotty. 

Of  all  these  letters,  one,  which  the  writer  did  not  wish  us  to  publicise,  seemed  to  warrant 

special  attention. 

It  came  from  a  retired  Anglican  priest  and  seemed  a  curious  and  provocative  non  sequitur. 

Our  correspondent  wrote  with  categorical  certainty  and  authority.  He  made  his  assertions 

baldly  and  definitively,  with  no  elaboration,  and  with  apparent  indifference  as  to  whether 

we  believed  him  or  not.  The  'treasure',  he  declared  flatly,  did  not  involve  gold  or  precious 

stones.  On  the  contrary,  it  consisted  of  'incontrovertible  proof  that  the  Crucifixion  was  a 

fraud  and  that  Jesus  was  alive  as  late  as  A.D.  45. 

This  claim  sounded  flagrantly  absurd.  What,  even  to  a  convinced 

atheist,  could  possibly  comprise  'incontrovertible  proof  that  Jesus 

survived  the 

Crucifixion?  We  were  unable  to  imagine  anything  which  could  not  be 

disbelieved  or  repudiated  which  would  not  only  comprise  'proof,  but 

'proof  that  was  truly  'incontrovertible'.  At  the  same  time  the  sheer 


28 


extravagance  of  the  assertion  begged  for  clarification  and 

elaboration.  The  writer  of  the  letter  had  provided  a  return  address.  At  the  earliest 

opportunity  we  drove  to  see  him  and  attempted  to  interview  him. 

In  person  he  was  rather  more  reticent  than  he  had  been  in  his  letter, 

and  seemed  to  regret  having  written  to  us  in  the  first  place.  He 

refused  to  expand  upon  his  reference  to  "incontrovertible  proof  and 

volunteered  only  one  additional  fragment  of  information.  This  "proof, 

he  said,  or  its  existence  at  any  rate,  had  been  divulged  to  him  by 

another  Anglican  cleric, 

Canon  Alfred  Leslie  Liney. 

Liney,  who  died  in  1940,  had  published  widely  and  was  not  unknown. 

During  much  of  his  life  he  had  maintained  contacts  with  the  Catholic 

Modernist 

Movement,  based  primarily  at  Saint  Sulpice  in  Paris.  In  his  youth  Liney  had  worked  in 

Paris,  and  had  been  acquainted  with  Emile  Hoffet. 

The  trail  had  come  full  circle.  Given  a  connection  between  Liney  and 

Hoffet,  the  claims  of  the  priest,  however  preposterous,  could  not  be 

summarily  dismissed.  Similar  evidence  of  a  monumental  secret  was 

forthcoming  when  we  began  to  research  the  life  of  Nicolas  Poussin,  the 

great  seventeenth-century  painter  whose  name  recurred  throughout 

Sauniere's  story.  In  1 656  Poussin,  who  was  living  in  Rome  at  the  time, 

had  received  a  visit  from  the  Abbe  Louis  Fouquet,  brother  of  Nicolas 

Fouquet, 

Superintendent  of  Finances  to  Louis  XIV  of  France.  From  Rome,  the  abbe  dispatched  a 

letter  to  his  brother,  describing  his  meeting  with  Poussin. 

Part  of  this  letter  is  worth  quoting. 

He  and  I  discussed  certain  things,  which  I  shall  with  ease  be  able  to 

explain  to  you  in  detail  things  which  will  give  you,  through  Monsieur 

Poussin,  advantages  which  even  kings  would  have  great  pains  to  draw  from  him,  and 

which,  according  to  him,  it  is  possible  that  nobody  else  will  ever  rediscover  in  the  centuries 

to  come.  And  what  is  more,  these  are  things  so  difficult  to  discover  that  nothing  now  on 

this  earth  can  prove  of  better  fortune  nor  be  their  equal.? 

Neither  historians  nor  biographers  of  Poussin  or  Fouquet  have  ever  been 

able  satisfactorily  to  explain  this  letter,  which  clearly  alludes  to 


29 


some  mysterious  matter  of  immense  import.  Not  long  after  receiving 

it,  Nicolas  Fouquet  was  arrested  and  imprisoned  for  the  duration  of  his  life.  According  to 

certain  accounts,  he  was  held  strictly  incommunicado  and  some  historians  regard  him  as 

a  likely  candidate  for  the  Man  in  the  Iron  Mask.  In  the  meantime  the  whole  of  his 

correspondence  was  confiscated  by  Louis  XIV,  who  inspected  all  of  it  personally.  In  the 

years  that  followed  the  king  went  determinedly  out  of  his  way  to  obtain  the  original  of 

Poussin's  painting,  "Les  Bergers  d'Arcadie'. 

When  he  at  last  succeeded  it  was  sequestered  in  his  private  apartments 

at 

Versailles. 

Whatever  its  artistic  greatness,  the  painting  would  seem  to  be  innocent 

enough.  In  the  foreground  three  shepherds  and  a  shepherdess  are 

gathered  about  a  large  antique  tomb,  contemplating  the  inscription  in 

the  weathered  stone:  "ET  IN  ARCADIA  EGO'.  In  the  background  looms  a 

rugged,  mountainous  landscape  of  the  sort  generally  associated  with 

Poussin.  According  to 

Anthony  Blunt,  as  well  as  other  Poussin  experts,  this  landscape  was  wholly  mythical,  a 

product  of  the  painter's  imagination.  In  the  early  1970s,  however,  an  actual  tomb  was 

located,  identical  to  the  one  in  the  painting  identical  in  setting,  dimensions,  proportions, 

shape,  surrounding  vegetation,  even  in  the  circular  outcrop  of  rock  on  which  one  of 

Poussin's  shepherds  rests  his  foot.  This  actual  tomb  stands  on  the  outskirts  of  a  village 

called  Arques  -approximately  six  miles  from  Rennes-leChateau,  and  three  miles  from  the 

chateau  of  Blanchefort.  If  one  stands  before  the  sepulchre  the  vista  is  virtually 

indistinguishable  from  that  in  the  painting.  And  then  it  becomes  apparent  that  one  of  the 

peaks  in  the  background  of  the  painting  is  Rennes-leChateau. 

There  is  no  indication  of  the  age  of  the  tomb.  It  may,  of  course,  have  been  erected  quite 

recently  but  how  did  its  builders  ever  locate  a  setting  which  matches  so  precisely  that  of 

the  painting?  In  fact  it  would  seem  to  have  been  standing  in  Poussin's  time,  and  "Les 

Bergers  d'Arcadie'  would  seem  to  be  a  faithful  rendering  of  the  actual  site. 

According  to  the  peasants  in  the  vicinity,  the  tomb  has  been  there  for 

as  long  as  they,  their  parents  and  grandparents  can  remember.  And 

there  is  said  to  be  specific  mention  of  it  in  a  memoire  dating  from 


30 


1709.8  According  to  records  in  the  village  of  Arques,  the  land  on 

which  the  tomb  starts  belonged,  until  his  death  in  the  1950s,  to  an 

American,  one  Louis 

Lawrence  of  Boston,  Massachusetts.  In  the  1920s  Mr.  Lawrence  opened  the  sepulchre 

and  found  it  empty.  His  wife  and  mother-in-law  were  later  buried  in  it. 

When  preparing  the  first  of  our  BBC  films  on  Rennes-leChateau,  we  spent  a  morning 

shooting  footage  of  the  tomb.  We  broke  off  for  lunch  and  returned  some  three  hours  later. 

During  our  absence,  a  crude  and  violent  attempt  had  been  made  to  smash  into  the 

sepulchre. 

If  there  was  once  an  inscription  on  the  actual  tomb,  it  had  long  since  been  weathered 

away.  As  for  the  inscription  on  the  tomb  in  Poussin's  painting,  it  would  seem  to  be 

conventionally  elegiac  Death  announcing  his  sombre  presence  even  in  Arcadia,  the  idyllic 

pastoral  paradise  of  classical  myth. 

And  yet  the  inscription  is  curious  because  it  lacks  a  verb.  Literally  translated,  it  reads: 

AND  IN  ARCADIA  I  ..  . 

Why  should  the  verb  be  missing?  Perhaps  for  a  philosophical  reason  to  preclude  all 

tense,  all  indication  of  past,  present  or  future,  and  thereby  to  imply  something  eternal?  Or 

perhaps  for  a  reason  of  a  more  practical  nature. 

The  codes  in  the  parchments  found  by  Sauniere  had  relied  heavily  on 

anagrams,  on  the  transposition  and  rearrangement  of  letters.  Could 

"ET 

IN 

ARCADIA  EGO'  also  perhaps  be  an  anagram?  Could  the  verb  have  been  omitted  so  that 

the  inscription  would  consist  only  of  certain  precise  letters?  One  of  our  television  viewers, 

in  writing  to  us,  suggested  that  this  might  indeed  be  so  and  then  rearranged  the  letters  into 

a  coherent  Latin  statement.  The  result  was: 

I  "FEGO  ARCANA  DEI 

(BEGONE!   I  CONCEAL  THE  SECRETS  OF  GOD) 

We  were  pleased  and  intrigued  by  this  ingenious  exercise.  We  did  not 

realise  at  the  time  how  extraordinarily  appropriate  the  resulting 


31 


admonition  was.  2  The  Cathars  and  the  Great  Heresy 

We  began  our  investigation  at  a  point  with  which  we  already  had  a 

certain  familiarity  the  Cathar  or  Albigensian  heresy  and  the  crusade  it 

provoked  in  the  thirteenth  century.  We  were  already  aware  that  the 

Cathars  figured  somehow  in  the  mystery  surrounding  Sauniere  and 

Rennes-leChateau.  In  the  first  place  the  medieval  heretics  had  been 

numerous  in  the  village  and  its  environs,  which  suffered  brutally 

during  the  course  of  the  Albigensian 

Crusade.  Indeed,  the  whole  history  of  the  region  is  soaked  in  Cathar  blood,  and  the 

residues  of  that  blood,  along  with  much  bitterness,  persist  to  the  present  day.  Many 

peasants  in  the  area  now,  with  no  inquisitors  1o  fall  upon  them,  openly  proclaim  Cathar 

sympathies.  There  is  even  a  Cathar  church  and  a  so-called  "Cathar  pope'  who,  until  his 

death  in  1 978,  lived  in  the  village  of  Arques. 

We  knew  that  Sauniere  had  immersed  himself  in  the  history  and  folklore  of  his  native  soil, 

so  he  could  not  possibly  have  avoided  contact  with  Cathar  thought  and  traditions.  He 

could  not  have  been  unaware  that  RennesleChateau  was  an  important  town  in  the  twelfth 

and  thirteenth  centuries,  and  something  of  a  Cathar  bastion. 

Sauniere  must  also  have  been  familiar  with  the  numerous  legends  attached  to  the 

Cathars.  He  must  have  known  of  the  rumours  connecting  them  with  that  fabulous  object, 

the  Holy  Grail.  And  if  Richard  Wagner,  in  quest  of  something  pertaining  to  the  Grail,  did 

indeed  visit  Rennes-leChateau,  Sauniere  could  not  have  been  ignorant  of  that  fact  either. 

In  1890,  moreover,  a  man  named  Jules  Doinel  became  librarian  at 

Carcassonne  and  established  a  neo-Cathar  church."  Doinel  himself  wrote 

prolifically  on 

Cathar  thought,  and  by  1896  had  become  a  prominent  member  of  a  local  cultural 

organisation,  the  Society  of  Arts  and  Sciences  of  Carcassonne. 


32 


In  1898  he  was  elected  its  41  secretary.  This  society  included  a 

number  of  Sauniere's  associates,  among  them  his  best  friend,  the  Abbe  Henri  Boudet. 

And  Doinel's  own  personal  circle  included  Emma  Calve. 

It  is  therefore  very  probable  that  Doinel  and 

Sauniere  were  acquainted. 

There  is  a  further,  and  more  provocative,  reason  for  linking  the 

Cathars  with  the  mystery  of  Rennes-leChateau.  In  one  of  the  parchments 

found  by 

Sauniere,  the  text  is  sprinkled  with  a  handful  of  small  letters  eight,  to  be  precise  quite 

deliberately  different  from  all  the  others.  Three  of  the  letters  are  towards  the  top  of  the 

page,  five  towards  the  bottom.  These  eight  letters  have  only  to  be  read  in  sequence  for 

them  to  spell  out  two  words  "REX  IvtuNDt'.  This  is  unmistakably  a  Cathar  term,  which  is 

immediately  recognisable  to  anyone  familiar  with  Cathar  thought. 

Given  these  factors,  it  seemed  reasonable  enough  to  commence  our  investigation  with  the 

Cathars.  We  therefore  began  to  research  into  them,  their  beliefs  and  traditions,  their 

history  and  milieu  in  detail.  Our  inquiry  opened  new  dimensions  of  mystery,  and 

generated  a  number  of  tantalising  questions. 

The  Albigensian  Crusade 

In  1209  an  army  of  some  30,000  knights  and  foot-soldiers  from  Northern  Europe 

descended  like  a  whirlwind  on  the  Languedoc  the  mountainous  north-eastern  foothills  of 

the  Pyrenees  in  what  is  now  southern  France.  In  the  ensuing  war  the  whole  territory  was 

ravaged,  crops  were  destroyed,  towns  and  cities  were  razed,  a  whole  population  was  put 

to  the  sword.  This  extermination  occurred  on  so  vast,  so  terrible  a  scale  that  it  may  well 

constitute  the  first  case  of  "genocide'  in  modern  European  history.  In  the  town  of  Beziers 

alone,  for  example,  at  least  15,000  men,  women  and  children  were  slaughtered  wholesale 

many  of  them  in  the  sanctuary  of  the  church  itself.  When  an  officer  inquired  of  the  pope's 

representative  how  he  might  distinguish  heretics  from  true  believers,  the  reply  was,  "Kill 

them  all.  God  will  recognise  His  own." 

This  quotation,  though  widely  reported,  may  be  apocryphal  Nevertheless, 


33 


it  typifies  the  fanatical  zeal  and  bloodlust  with  which  the  atrocities 

were  perpetrated.  The  Map  3  The  Languedoc  of  the  Cathars 

BORDEAUX 

RC-fm 

CA  HORS 

AGE~f/" 

MOISSAC  MONTAUBANAVIGNON 

ALBI-NIMES 

TOUL  USE  CA  EMONTPELLIER 

-MUO.ET 

Ml  NERVE  BE:2I 

CARCASSONNE  "MARSEILLES 

PAMKRS.X.  MOT  _A0. BONNE- 

MIR~"POXLET 

/XTERM  LA  VELA  NET 

rMCNTStGURi-QU  IBP  us  _ 

AA~"RPIGNAN 

same  papal  representative,  writing  to  Innocent  III  in  Rome,  announced  proudly  that 

"neither  age  nor  sex  nor  status  was  spared'. 

After  Beziers,  the  invading  army  swept  through  the  whole  of  the  Languedoc. 

Perpignan  fell,  Narbonne  fell,  Carcassonne  fell,  Toulouse  fell.  And,  wherever  the  victors 

passed,  they  left  a  trail  of  blood,  death  and  carnage  in  their  wake. 

This  war,  which  lasted  for  nearly  forty  years,  is  now  known  as  the 

Albigensian  Crusade.  It  was  a  crusade  in  the  true  sense  of  the  word.  It  had  been  called 

by  the  pope  himself.  Its  participants  wore  a  cross  on  their  tunics,  like  crusaders  in 

Palestine.  And  the  rewards  were  the  same  as  they  were  for  crusaders  in  the  Holy  Land 

remission  of  all  sins,  an  expiation  of  penances,  an  assured  place  in  Heaven  and  all  the 

booty  one  could  plunder.  In  this  Crusade,  moreover,  one  did  not  even  have  to  cross  the 

sea. 

And  in  accordance  with  feudal  law,  one  was  obliged  to  fight  for  no  more  than  forty  days 

assuming,  of  course,  that  one  had  no  interest  in  plunder. 


34 


By  the  time  the  Crusade  was  over,  the  Languedoc  had  been  utterly 
transformed,  plunged  back  into  the  barbarity  that  characterised  the 
rest  of 

Europe.  Why?  For  what  had  all  this  havoc,  brutality  and  devastation  occurred? 
At  the  beginning  of  the  thirteenth  century  the  area  now  known  as  the 
Languedoc  was  not  officially  a  part  of  France.  It  was  an  independent 
principality,  whose  language,  culture  and  political  institutions  had 
less  in  common  with  the  north  than  they  had  with  Spain  with  the 
kingdoms  of 

Leon,  Aragon  and  Castile.  The  principality  was  ruled  by  a  handful  of  noble  families,  chief 
of  whom  were  the  counts  of  Toulouse  and  the  powerful  house  of  Trencavel.  And  within 
the  confines  of  this  principality,  there  flourished  a  culture  which,  at  the  time,  was  the  most 
advanced  and  sophisticated  in  Christendom,  with  the  possible  exception  of  Byzantium. 
The  Languedoc  had  much  in  common  with  Byzantium.  Learning,  for  example,  was  highly 
esteemed,  as  it  was  not  in  Northern  Europe.  Philosophy  and  other  intellectual  activities 
flourished;  poetry  and  courtly  love  were  extolled; 
Greek,  Arabic;  and  Hebrew  were  enthusiastically  studied;  and  at  Lunel 
and 

Narbonne,  schools  devoted  to  the  Cabala  the  ancient  esoteric  tradition 
of 

Judaism  -were  thriving.  Even  the  nobility  was  literate  and  literary,  at  a  time  when  most 
Northern  nobles  could  not  even  sign  their  names. 
Like  Byzantium,  too,  the  Languedoc  practised  a  civilised,  easy-going 
religious  tolerance  in  contrast  to  the  fanatical  zeal  that 
characterised  other  parts  of  Europe.  Skeins  of  Islamic  and  Judaic 
thought,  for  instance,  were  imported  through  maritime  commercial 
centres  like  Marseilles,  or  made  their  way  across  the  Pyrenees  from 
Spain.  At  the  same  time,  the  Roman 

Church  enjoyed  no  very  high  esteem;  Roman  clerics  in  the  Languedoc,  by  virtue  of  their 
notorious  corruption,  succeeded  primarily  in  alienating  the  populace.  There  were 
churches,  for  example,  in  which  no  mass  had  been  said  for  more  than  thirty  years.  Many 
priests  ignored  their  parishioners  and  ran  businesses  or  large  estates.  One  archbishop  of 
Narbonne  never  even  visited  his  diocese. 

Whatever  the  corruption  of  the  church,  the  Languedoc  had  reached  an 
apex  of  culture  that  would  not  be  seen  in  Europe  again  until  the 


35 


Renaissance.  But,  as  in  Byzantium,  there  were  elements  of 

complacency,  decadence  and  tragic  weakness  which  rendered  the  region 

unprepared  for  the  onslaught  subsequently  unleashed  upon  it.  For  some 

time  both  the  Northern  European  nobility  and  the  Roman  Church  had  been 

aware  of  its  vulnerability,  and  were  eager  to  exploit  it.  The 

Northern  nobility  had  for  many  years  coveted  the  wealth  and  luxury  of 

the 

Languedoc.  And  the  Church  was  interested  for  its  own  reasons.  In  the  first  place  its 

authority  in  the  region  was  slack.  And  while  culture  flourished  in  the  Languedoc, 

something  else  flourished  as  well  the  major  heresy  of  medieval  Christendom. 

In  the  words  of  Church  authorities  the  Languedoc  was  "infected'  by 

the 

Albigensian  heresy,  'the  foul  leprosy  of  the  South'.  And  although  the 

adherents  of  this  heresy  were  essentially  non-violent,  they  constituted 

a  severe  threat  to  Roman  authority,  the  most  severe  threat,  indeed, 

that  Rome  would  experience  until  three  centuries  later  when  teachings 

of  Martin 

Luther  began  the  Reformation.  By  1200  there  was  a  very  real  prospect 

of  this  heresy  displacing  Roman  Catholicism  as  the  dominant  form  of 

Christianity  in  the  Languedoc.  And  what  was  more  ominous  still  in 

the 

Church's  eyes,  it  was  already  radiating  out  to  other  parts  of  Europe,  especially  to  urban 

centres  in  Germany,  Flanders  and  Champagne. 

The  heretics  were  known  by  a  variety  of  names.  In  1 1 65  they  had  been  condemned  by  an 

ecclesiastical  council  at  the  Languedoc  town  of  Albi. 

For  this  reason,  or  perhaps  because  Albi  continued  to  be  one  of  their 

centres,  they  were  often  called  Albigensians.  On  other  occasions  they 

were  called 

Cathars  or  Cathares  or  Cathari.  In  Italy  they  were  called  Patarines.  Not  infrequently  they 

were  also  branded  or  stigmatised  with  the  names  of  much  earlier  heresies  Arian, 

Marcionite  and  Manichaean.  "Albigensian'  and  "Cathar'  were  essentially  generic  names. 

In  other  words  they  did  not  refer  to  a  single  coherent  church,  like  that  of  Rome,  with  a 

fixed,  codified  and  definitive  body  of  doctrine  and  theology.  The  heretics  in  question 

comprised  a  multitude  of  diverse  sects  many  under  the  direction  of  an  independent  leader, 

whose  followers  would  assume  his  name. 

And  while  these  sects  may  have  held  to  certain  common  principles,  they 


36 


diverged  radically  from  one  another  in  detail.  Moreover,  much  of  our 

information  about  the  heretics  derives  from  ecclesiastical  sources  like 

the  Inquisition.  To  form  a  picture  of  them  from  such  sources  is  like 

trying  to  form  a  picture  of,  say,  the  French  Resistance  from  the 

reports  of  the  SS  and  Gestapo.  It  is  therefore  virtually  impossible  to 

present  a  coherent  and  definitive  summary  of  what  actually 

constituted 

"Cathar  thought'. 

In  general  the  Cathars  subscribed  to  a  doctrine  of  reincarnation  and  to 

a  recognition  of  the  feminine  principle  in  religion.  Indeed,  the 

preachers  and  teachers  of  Cathar  congregations,  known  as  parfaits 

("perfected  ones'),  were  of  both  sexes.  At  the  same  time,  the  Cathars 

rejected  the  orthodox 

Catholic  Church  and  denied  the  validity  of  all  clerical  hierarchies,  or 

official  and  ordained  intercessors  between  man  and  God.  At  the  core  of 

this  position  lay  an  important  Cathar  tenet  the  repudiation  of  "faith', 

at  least  as  the  Church  insisted  on  it.  In  the  place  of  'faith' 

accepted  at  second  hand,  the  Cathars  insisted  on  direct  and  personal 

knowledge,  a  religious  or  mystical  experience  apprehended  at  first 

hand.  This  experience  had  been  called  "gnosis',  from  the  Greek  word 

for  'knowledge',  and  for  the 

Cathars  it  took  precedence  over  all  creeds  and  dogma.  Given  such  an  emphasis  on  direct 

personal  contact  with  God,  priests,  bishops  and  other  clerical  authorities  became 

superfluous. 

The  Cathars  were  also  dualists.  All  Christian  thought,  of  course,  can  ultimately  be  seen 

as  dualistic,  insisting  on  a  conflict  between  two  opposing  principles  good  and  evil,  spirit 

and  flesh,  higher  and  lower. 

But  the  Cathars  carried  this  dichotomy  much  further  than  orthodox 

Catholicism  was  prepared  to.  For  the  Cathars,  men  were  the  swords  that  spirits  fought 

with,  and  no  one  saw  the  hands.  For  them,  a  perpetual  war  was  being  waged  throughout 

the  whole  of  creation  between  two  irreconcilable  principles  -light  and  darkness,  spirit  and 

matter,  good  and  evil. 

Catholicism  posits  one  supreme  God,  whose  adversary,  the  Devil,  is  ultimately  inferior  to 

Him.  The  Cathars,  however,  proclaimed  the  existence  not  of  one  god,  but  of  two,  with 

more  or  less  comparable  status.  One  of  these  gods  the  'good'  one  was  entirely 

disincarnate,  a  being  or  principle  of  pure  spirit,  unsullied  by  the  taint  of  matter. 

He  was  the  god  of  love.  But  love  was  deemed  wholly  incompatible  with 


37 


power;  and  material  creation  was  a  manifestation  of  power.  Therefore, 
for  the  Cathars,  material  creation  the  world  itself  was  intrinsically  evil.  All  matter  was 
intrinsically  evil. 

The  universe,  in  short,  was  the  handiwork  of  a  'usurper  god',  the  god  of  evil  or,  as  the 
Cathars  called  him,  "Rex  Mundi',  "King  of  the  World'. 

Catholicism  rests  on  what  might  be  called  an  "ethical  dualism'.  Evil,  though  issuing 
ultimately  perhaps  from  the  Devil,  manifests  itself  primarily  through  man  and  his  actions. 
In  contrast,  the  Cathars  maintained  a  form  of  "cosmological  dualism',  a  dualism  that 
pervaded  the  whole  of  reality.  For  the  Cathars,  this  was  a  basic  premise,  but  their 
response  to  it  varied  from  sect  to  sect.  According  to  some  Cathars,  the  purpose  of  man's 
life  on  earth  was  to  transcend  matter,  to  renounce  perpetually  anything  connected  with  the 
principle  of  power  and  thereby  to  attain  union  with  the  principle  of  love.  According  to  other 
Cathars,  man's  purpose  was  to  reclaim  and  redeem  matter,  to  spiritualise  and  transform  it. 
It  is  important  to  note  the  absence  of  any  fixed  dogma,  doctrine  or  theology.  As  in  most 
deviations  from  established  orthodoxy  there  are  only  certain  loosely  defined  attitudes,  and 
the  moral  obligations  attendant  on  these  attitudes  were  subject  to  individual  interpretation. 
In  the  eyes  of  the  Roman  Church  the  Cathars  were  committing  serious  heresies  in 
regarding  material  creation,  on  behalf  of  which  Jesus  had  supposedly  died,  as  intrinsically 
evil,  and  implying  that  God,  whose  'word'  had  created  the  world  "in  the  beginning',  was  a 
usurper.  Their  most  serious  heresy,  however,  was  their  attitude  towards  Jesus  himself. 
Since  matter  was  intrinsically  evil,  the  Cathars  denied  that  Jesus  could  partake  of  matter, 
become  incarnate  in  the  flesh,  and  still  be  the  Son  of  God.  By  some  Cathars  he  was 
therefore  deemed  to  be  wholly  incorporeal,  a  'phantasm',  an  entity  of  pure  spirit,  which,  of 
course,  could  not  possibly  be  crucified.  The  majority  of  Cathars  seem  to  have  regarded 
him  as  a  prophet  no  different  from  any  other  a  mortal  being  who,  on  behalf  of  the  principle 
of  love,  died  on  the  cross.  There  was,  in  short,  nothing  mystical,  nothing  supernatural, 
nothing  divine  about  the  Crucifixion  if,  indeed,  it  was  relevant  at  all,  which  many  Cathars 
appear  to  have  doubted. 


38 


In  any  case,  all  Cathars  vehemently  repudiated  the  significance  of 

both  the  Crucifixion  and  the  cross  -perhaps  because  they  felt  these  doctrines  were 

irrelevant,  or  because  Rome  extolled  them  so  fervently,  or  because  the  brutal 

circumstances  of  a  prophet's  death  did  not  seem  worthy  of  worship.  And  the  cross  at 

least  in  association  with  Calvary  and  the  Crucifixion  was  regarded  as  an  emblem  of  Rex 

Mundi,  lord  of  the  material  world,  the  very  antithesis  of  the  true  redemptive  principle. 

Jesus,  if  mortal  at  all,  had  been  a  prophet  of  Ahs  oR  the  principle  of 

love.  And 

AMOR,  when  inverted  or  perverted  or  twisted  into  power,  became  ROMA 

Rome,  whose  opulent,  luxurious  Church  seemed  to  the  Cathars  a  palpable 

embodiment  and  manifestation  on  earth  of  Rex  Mundi's  sovereignty.  In 

consequence  the 

Cathars  not  only  refused  to  worship  the  cross,  they  also  denied  such  sacraments  as 

baptism  and  communion. 

Despite  these  subtle,  complex,  abstract  and,  to  a  modern  mind  perhaps, 

irrelevant  theological  positions,  most  Cathars  were  not  unduly 

fanatical  about  their  creed.  It  is  intellectually  fashionable  nowadays 

to  regard  the 

Cathars  as  a  congregation  of  sages,  enlightened  mystics  or  initiates  in 

arcane  wisdom,  all  of  whom  were  privy  to  some  great  cosmic  secret.  In 

actual  fact,  however,  most  Cathars  were  more  or  less  "ordinary'  men  and 

women,  who  found  in  their  creed  a  refuge  from  the  stringency  of 

orthodox 

Catholicism  a  respite  from  the  endless  tithes,  penances,  obsequies,  strictures  and  other 

impositions  of  the  Roman  Church. 

However  abstruse  their  theology,  the  Cathars  were  eminently  realistic 

people  in  practice.  They  condemned  procreation,  for  example,  since  the 

propagation  of  the  flesh  was  a  service  not  to  the  principle  of  love, 

but  to 

Rex  Mundi;  but  they  were  not  so  naive  as  to  advocate  the  abolition  of 

sexuality.  True,  there  was  a  specific  Cathar  "sacrament',  or  the 

equivalent  thereof,  called  the  Consolamentum,  which  compelled  one  to 

chastity.  Except  for  the  parfaits,  however,  who  were  usually  ex-family 

men  and  women  anyway,  the  Consolumentum  was  not  administered  until  one 

was  on  one's  death-bed;  and  it  is  not  inordinately  difficult  to  be 

chaste  when  one  is  dying.  So  far  as  the  congregation  at  large  was 

concerned,  sexuality  was  tolerated,  if  not  explicitly  sanctioned.  How 

does  one  condemn  procreation  while  condoning  sexuality?  There  is 


39 


evidence  to  suggest  that  the  Cathars  practised  both  birth  control  and 

abortion."  When  Rome  subsequently  charged  the  heretics  with  'unnatural 

sexual  practices',  this  was  taken  to  refer  to  sodomy.  However,  the 

Cathars,  in  so  far  as  records  survive,  were  extremely  strict  in  their 

prohibition  of  homosexuality.  "Unnatural  sexual  practices'  may  well 

have  referred  to  various  methods  of  birth  control  and  abortion.  We 

know  Rome's  position  on  those  issues  today.  It  is  not  difficult  to 

imagine  the  energy  and  vindictive  zeal  with  which  that  position  would 

have  been  enforced  during  the  Middle 

Ages. 

Generally,  the  Cathars  seem  to  have  adhered  to  a  life  of  extreme  devotion  and  simplicity. 

Deploring  churches,  they  usually  conducted  their  rituals  and  services  in  the  open  air  or  in 

any  readily  available  building  a  barn,  a  house,  a  municipal  hall.  They  also  practised  what 

we,  today,  would  call  meditation.  They  were  strict  vegetarians,  although  the  eating  of  fish 

was  allowed.  And  when  travelling  about  the  countryside,  parfaits  would  always  do  so  in 

pairs,  thus  lending  credence  to  the  rumours  of  sodomy  sponsored  by  their  enemies. 

The  Siege  of  Montsegur 

This,  then,  was  the  creed  which  swept  the  Languedoc  and  adjacent  provinces  on  a  scale 

that  threatened  to  displace  Catholicism  itself.  For  a  number  of  comprehensible  reasons, 

many  nobles  found  the  creed  attractive.  Some  warmed  to  its  general  tolerance.  Some 

were  anti-clerical  anyway.  Some  were  disillusioned  with  the  Church's  corruption.  Some 

had  lost  patience  with  the  tithe  system,  whereby  the  income  from  their  estates  vanished 

into  the  distant  coffers  of  Rome.  Thus  many  nobles,  in  their  old  age,  became  parfaits. 

Indeed,  it  is  estimated  that  30  per  cent  of  all  parfaits  were  drawn  from  Languedoc  nobility. 

In  1 145,  half  a  century  before  the  Albigensian  Crusade,  Saint  Bernard 

himself  had  journeyed  to  the  Languedoc,  intending  to  preach  against  the 

heretics.  When  he  arrived,  he  was  less  appalled  by  the  heretics  than 

by  the  corruption  of  his  own  Church.  So  far  as  the  heretics  were 

concerned, 


40 


Bernard  was  clearly  impressed-by  them.  "No  sermons  are  more  Christian 

than  theirs,"  he  declared,  "and  their  morals  are  pure.  '3 

By  1200,  needless  to  say,  Rome  had  grown  distinctly  alarmed  by  the 

situation.  Nor  was  she  unaware  of  the  envy  with  which  the  barons  of 

Northern  Europe  regarded  the  rich  lands  and  cities  to  the  south.  This 

envy  could  readily  be  exploited,  and  the  Northern  lords  would 

constitute  the 

Church's  storm-troops.  All  that  was  needed  was  some  provocation,  some  excuse  to  ignite 

popular  opinion. 

Such  an  excuse  was  soon  forthcoming.  On  January  14th,  1208,  one  of 

the 

Papal  Legates  to  the  Languedoc,  Pierre  de  Castelnau,  was  murdered.  The 

crime  seems  to  have  been  committed  by  anticlerical  rebels  with  no 

Cathar  affiliations  whatever.  Furnished  with  the  excuse  she  needed, 

however,  Rome  did  not  hesitate  to  blame  the  Cathars.  At  once  Pope 

Innocent  III  ordered  a 

Crusade.  Although  there  had  been  intermittent  persecution  of  heretics  all  through  the 

previous  century,  the  Church  now  mobilised  her  forces  in  earnest.  The  heresy  was  to  be 

extirpated  once  and  for  all. 

A  massive  army  was  mustered  under  the  command  of  the  abbot  of  Citeaux. 

Military  operations  were  entrusted  largely  to  Simon  de  Montfort  father  of  the  man  who  was 

subsequently  to  play  so  crucial  a  role  in  English  history. 

And  under  Simon's  leadership  the  pope's  crusaders  set  out  to  reduce  the  highest 

European  culture  of  the  Middle  Ages  to  destitution  and  rubble. 

In  this  holy  undertaking  they  were  aided  by  a  new  and  useful  ally,  a 

Spanish  fanatic  named  Dominic  Guzman.  Spurred  by  a  rabid  hatred  of 

heresy,  Guzman,  in  1216,  created  the  monastic  order  subsequently  named 

after  him,  the 

Dominicans.  And  in  1233  the  Dominicans  spawned  a  more  infamous  institution  the  Holy 

Inquisition.  The  Cathars  were  not  to  be  its  sole  victims.  Before  the  Albigensian  Crusade, 

many  Languedoc  nobles  especially  the  influential  houses  of  Trencavel  and  Toulouse  had 

been  extremely  friendly  to  the  region's  large  indigenous  Jewish  population.  Now  all  such 

protection  and  support  was  withdrawn  by  order. 

In  1218  Simon  de  Montfort  was  killed  besieging  Toulouse.  Nevertheless,  the  depredation 

of  the  Languedoc  continued,  with  only  brief  respites,  for  another  quarter  of  a  century.  By 

1243,  however,  all  organised  resistance  in  so  far  as  there  had  ever  been  any  had 

effectively  ceased. 


41 


By  1243  all  major  Cathar  towns  and  bastions  had  fallen  to  the  Northern 

invaders,  except  for  a  handful  of  remote  and  isolated  strong  points.  Chief  among  these 

was  the  majestic  mountain  citadel  of  Montsegur,  poised  like  a  celestial  ark  above  the 

surrounding  valleys. 

For  ten  months  Montsegur  was  besieged  by  the  invaders,  withstanding 

repeated  assaults  and  maintaining  tenacious  resistance.  At  length,  in 

March  1244,  the  fortress  capitulated,  and  Catharism,  at  least 

ostensibly,  ceased  to  exist  in  the  south  of  France.  But  ideas  can 

never  be  stamped  out  definitively.  In  his  best-selling  book, 

Montaillou,  for  example,  Emmanuel 

Le  Roy  Ladurie,  drawing  extensively  on  documents  of  the  period, 

chronicles  the  activities  of  surviving  Cathars  nearly  half  a  century 

after  the  fall  of 

Montsegur.  Small  enclaves  of  heretics  continued  to  survive  in  the 

mountains,  living  in  caves,  adhering  to  their  creed  and  waging  a  bitter 

guerrilla  war  against  their  persecutors.  In  many  areas  of  the 

Languedoc  including  the  environs  of  Rennes-leChateau  the  Cathar  faith 

is  generally  acknowledged  to  have  persisted.  And  many  writers  have 

traced  subsequent 

European  heresies  to  offshoots  of  Cathar  thought  the  Waldensians,  for 

instance,  the  Hussites,  the  Adamites  or.  Brethren  of  the  Free  Spirit, 

the 

Anabaptists  and  the  strange  Camisards,  numbers  of  whom  found  refuge 

in 

London  during  the  early  eighteenth  century. 

The  Cathar  Treasure 

During  the  Albigensian  Crusade  and  afterwards,  a  mystique  grew  up 

around  the 

Cathars  which  still  persists  today.  In  part  this  can  be  put  down  to 

the  element  of  romance  that  surrounds  any  lost  and  tragic  cause  that  of 

Bonnie 

Prince  Charlie,  for  example  with  a  magical  lustre,  with  a  haunting  nostalgia,  with  the  "stuff 

of  legend'.  But  at  the  same  time,  we  discovered,  there  were  some  very  real  mysteries 

associated  with  the  Cathars.  While  the  legends  might  be  exalted  and  romanticised,  a 

number  of  enigmas  remained. 

One  of  these  pertains  to  the  origins  of  the  Cathars;  and  although  this  at  first  seemed  an 

academic  point  to  us,  it  proved  subsequently  to  be  of  considerable  importance. 


42 


Most  recent  historians  have  argued  that  the  Cathars  derived  from  the 

Bogomils,  a  sect  active  in  Bulgaria  during  the  tenth  and  eleventh  centuries,  whose 

missionaries  migrated  westwards.  There  is  no  question  that  the  heretics  of  the 

Languedoc  included  a  number  of  Bogomils. 

Indeed  a  known 

Bogomil  preacher  was  prominent  in  the  political  and  religious  affairs 

of  the  time.  And  yet  our  research  disclosed  substantial  evidence  that 

the  Cathars  did  not  derive  from  the  Bogomils.  On  the  contrary,  they 

seemed  to  represent  the  flowering  of  something  already  rooted  in  French 

soil  for  centuries.  They  seemed  to  have  issued,  almost  directly,  from 

heresies  established  and  entrenched  in  France  at  the  very  advent  of  the 

Christian  era.  4 

There  are  other,  considerably  more  intriguing,  mysteries  associated 

with  the  Cathars.  Jean  de  Joinville,  for  example,  an  old  man  writing 

of  his  acquaintance  with  Louis  IX  during  the  thirteenth  century, 

writes,  "The  king  (Louis  IX)  once  told  me  how  several  men  from  among 

the  Albigenses  had  gone  to  the  Comte  de  Montfort ..  .  and  asked  him  to 

come  and  look  at  the  body  of  Our  Lord,  which  had  become  flesh  and  blood 

in  the  hands  of  their  priest.  '5  Montfort,  according  to  the  anecdote, 

declared  that  his  entourage  may  go  if  they  wish,  but  he  will  continue 

to  believe  in  accordance  with  the  tenets  of 

"Holy  Church'.  There  is  no  further  elaboration  or  explanation  of  this  incident.  Joinville 

himself  merely  recounts  it  in  passing.  But  what  are  we  to  make  of  that  enigmatic 

invitation?  What  were  the  Cathars  doing?  What  kind  of  ritual  was  involved?  Leaving 

aside  the  Mass,  which  the  Cathars  repudiated  anyway,  what  could  possibly  make  "the 

body  of  Our  Lord  ..  .  become  flesh  and  blood'?  Whatever  it  might  be,  there  is  certainly 

something  disturbingly  literal  in  the  statement. 

Another  mystery  surrounds  the  legendary  Cathar  "treasure'.  It  is  known 

that  the  Cathars  were  extremely  wealthy.  Technically,  their  creed 

forbade  them  to  bear  arms;  and  though  many  ignored  this  prohibition, 

the  fact  remains  that  large  numbers  of  mercenaries  were  employed  at 

considerable  expense.  At  the  same  time,  the  sources  of  Cathar  wealth 

the  allegiance  they  commanded  from  powerful  landowners,  for  instance 


43 


were  obvious  and  explicable.  Yet  rumours  arose,  even  during  the 
course  of  the 

Albigensian  Crusade,  of  a  fantastic  mystical  Cathar  treasure,  far 
beyond  material  wealth.  Whatever  it  was,  this  treasure  was  reputedly 
kept  at 

Montsegur.  When  Montsegur  fell,  however,  nothing  of  consequence  was  found. 
And  yet  there  are  certain  extremely  singular  incidents  connected  with  the  siege  and  the 
capitulation  of  the  fortress. 

During  the  siege,  the  attackers  numbered  upwards  of  ten  thousand.  With  this  vast  force 
the  besiegers  attempted  to  surround  the  entire  mountain,  precluding  all  entry  and  exit  and 
hoping  to  starve  out  the  defenders. 

Despite  their  numerical  strength,  however,  they  lacked  sufficient  manpower  to  make  their 
ring  completely  secure.  Many  troops  were  local,  moreover,  and  sympathetic  to  the 
Cathars.  And  many  troops  were  simply  unreliable.  In  consequence,  it  was  not  difficult  to 
pass  undetected  through  the  attackers'  lines.  There  were  many  gaps  through  which  men 
slipped  to  and  fro,  and  supplies  found  their  way  up  to  the  fortress. 
The  Cathars  took  advantage  of  these  gaps.  In  January,  nearly  three  months  before  the 
fall  of  the  fortress,  two  parfaits  escaped.  According  to  reliable  accounts,  they  carried  with 
them  the  bulk  of  the  Cathars'  material  wealth  a  load  of  gold,  silver  and  coin  which  they 
carried  first  to  a  fortified  cave  in  the  mountains  and  from  there  to  a  castle  stronghold. 
After  that  the  treasure  vanished  and  has  never  been  heard  of  again. 
On  March  1st  Montsegur  finally  capitulated.  By  then  its  defenders  numbered  less  than  four 
hundred  between  150  and  180  of  them  were  parfaits,  the  rest  being  knights,  squires,  men- 
at-arms  and  their  families.  They  were  granted  surprisingly  lenient  terms.  The  fighting 
men  were  to  receive  full  pardon  for  all  previous  'crimes'.  They  would  be  allowed  to  depart 
with  their  arms,  baggage  and  any  gifts,  including  money,  they  might  receive  from  their 
employers.  The  parfaits  were  also  accorded  unexpected  generosity. 
Provided  they  abjured  their  heretical  beliefs  and  confessed  their  "sins'  to  the  Inquisition, 
they  would  be  freed  and  subjected  only  to  light  penances. 
The  defenders  requested  a  two-week  truce,  with  a  complete  halt  to 
hostilities,  to  consider  the  terms.  In  a  further  display  of 


44 


uncharacteristic  generosity,  the  attackers  agreed.  In  return  the 

defenders  voluntarily  offered  hostages.  It  was  agreed  that  if  anyone  attempted  to  escape 

from  the  fortress  the  hostages  would  be  executed. 

Were  the  parfaits  so  committed  to  their  beliefs  that  they  willingly  chose  martyrdom  instead 

of  conversion?  Or  was  there  something  they  could  not  or  dared  not  -confess  to  the 

Inquisition?  Whatever  the  answer,  not  one  of  the  porfaits,  as  far  as  is  known,  accepted 

the  besiegers'  terms.  On  the  contrary,  all  of  them  chose  martyrdom.  Moreover,  at  least 

twenty  of  the  other  occupants  of  the  fortress,  six  women  and  some  fifteen  fighting  men, 

voluntarily  received  the  Consolamentum  and  became  parfaits  as  well,  thus  committing 

themselves  to  certain  death. 

On  March  15th  the  truce  expired.  At  dawn  the  following  day  more  than  two  hundred 

parfaits  were  dragged  roughly  down  the  mountainside.  Not  one  recanted.  There  was  no 

time  to  erect  individual  stakes,  so  they  were  locked  into  a  large  wood-filled  stockade  at  the 

foot  of  the  mountain  and  burned  en  masse.  Confined  to  the  castle,  the  remainder  of  the 

garrison  was  compelled  to  look  on.  They  were  warned  that  if  any  of  them  sought  to 

escape  it  would  mean  death  for  all  of  them,  as  well  as  for  the  hostages. 

Despite  this  risk,  however,  the  garrison  had  connived  in  hiding  four 

parfaits  among  them.  And  on  the  night  of  March  16th  these  four  men, 

accompanied  by  a  guide,  made  a  daring  escape  again  with  the  knowledge 

and  collusion  of  the  garrison.  They  descended  the  sheer  western  face 

of  the  mountain,  suspended  by  ropes  and  letting  themselves  down  drops 

of  more  than  a  hundred  metres  at  a  time.fi 

What  were  these  men  doing?  What  was  the  purpose  of  their  hazardous  escape,  which 

entailed  such  risk  to  both  the  garrison  and  the  hostages?  On  the  next  day  they  could 

have  walked  freely  out  of  the  fortress,  at  liberty  to  resume  their  lives.  Yet  for  some 

unknown  reason,  they  embarked  on  a  perilous  nocturnal  escape  which  might  easily  have 

entailed  death  for  themselves  and  their  colleagues. 

According  to  tradition,  these  four  men  carried  with  them  the 

legendary 

Cathar  treasure.  But  the  Cathar  treasure  had  been  smuggled  out  of 

Montsegur  three  months  before.  And  how  much  "treasure',  in  any  case 


45 


how  much  gold,  silver  or  coin  could  three  or  four  men  carry  on  their 

backs,  dangling  from  ropes  on  a  sheer  mountainside?  If  the  four  escapees  were  indeed 

carrying  something,  it  would  seem  clear  that  they  were  carrying  something  other  than 

material  wealth. 

What  might  they  have  been  carrying?  Accoutrements  of  the  Cathar  faith  perhaps  books, 

manuscripts,  secret  teachings,  relics,  religious  objects  of  some  kind;  perhaps  something 

which,  for  one  reason  or  another,  could  not  be  permitted  to  fall  into  hostile  hands.  That 

might  explain  why  an  escape  was  undertaken  an  escape  that  entailed  such  risk  for 

everyone  involved. 

But  if  something  of  so  precious  a  nature  had,  at  all  costs,  to  be  kept  out  of  hostile  hands, 

why  was  it  not  smuggled  out  before?  Why  was  it  not  smuggled  out  with  the  bulk  of  the 

material  treasure  three  months  previously?  Why  was  it  retained  in  the  fortress  until  this 

last  and  most  dangerous  moment? 

The  precise  date  of  the  truce  permitted  us  to  deduce  a  possible  answer  to  these 

questions.  It  had  been  requested  by  the  defenders,  who  voluntarily  offered  hostages  to 

obtain  it.  For  some  reason,  the  defenders  seem  to  have  deemed  it  necessary  even 

though  all  it  did  was  delay  the  inevitable  for  a  mere  two  weeks. 

Perhaps,  we  concluded,  such  a  delay  was  necessary  to  purchase  time.  Not  time  in 

general,  but  that  specific  time,  that  specific  date.  It  coincided  with  the  spring  equinox  -and 

the  equinox  may  well  have  enjoyed  some  ritual  status  for  the  Cathars.  It  also  coincided 

with  Easter.  But  the  Cathars,  who  questioned  the  relevance  of  the  Crucifixion,  ascribed 

no  particular  importance  to  Easter.  And  yet  it  is  known  that  a  festival  of  some  sort  was 

held  on  March  14th,  the  day  before  the  truce  expired."  There  seems  little  doubt  that  the 

truce  was  requested  in  order  that  this  festival  might  be  held.  And  there  seems  little  doubt 

that  the  festival  could  not  be  held  on  a  date  selected  at  random.  It  apparently  had  to  be 

on  March  14th.  Whatever  the  festival  was,  it  clearly  made  some  impression  on  the  hired 

mercenaries  some  of  whom,  defying  inevitable  death,  converted  to  the  Cathar  creed. 

Could  this  fact  hold  at  least  a  partial  key  to  what  was  smuggled  out 

of 

Montsegur  two  nights  later?  Could  whatever  was  smuggled  out  then  have 

been  necessary,  in  some  way,  for  the  festival  on  the  14th?  Could  it 


46 


somehow  have  been  instrumental  in  persuading  at  least  twenty  of  the 

defenders  to  become  parfaits  at  the  last  moment?  And  could  it  in  some  fashion  have 

ensured  the  subsequent  collusion  of  the  garrison,  even  at  the  risk  of  their  lives?  If  the 

answer  is  yes  to  all  these  questions,  that  would  explain  why  whatever  was  removed  on  the 

1 6th  was  not  removed  earlier  in  January,  for  example,  when  the  monetary  treasure  was 

carried  to  safety.  It  would  have  been  needed  for  the  festival.  And  it  would  then  have  had 

to  be  kept  out  of  hostile  hands. 

The  Mystery  of  the  Cathars 

As  we  pondered  these  conclusions,  we  were  constantly  reminded  of  the 

legends  linking  the  Cathars  and  the  Holy  Grail. 8  We  were  not  prepared 

to  regard  the 

Grail  as  anything  more  than  myth.  We  were  certainly  not  prepared  to  assert  that  it  ever 

existed  in  actuality.  Even  if  it  did,  we  could  not  imagine  that  a  cup  or  bowl,  whether  it  held 

Jesus's  blood  or  not,  would  be  so  very  precious  to  the  Cathars  for  whom  Jesus,  to  a 

significant  degree,  was  incidental.  Nevertheless,  the  legends  continued  to  haunt  and 

perplex  us. 

Elusive  though  it  is,  there  does  seem  to  be  some  link  between  the 

Cathars  and  the  whole  cult  of  the  Grail  as  it  evolved  during  the 

twelfth  and  thirteenth  centuries.  A  number  of  writers  have  argued  that 

the  Grail  romances  -those  of  Chretien  de  Troyes  and  Wolfram  von 

Eschenbach,  for  example  are  an  interpolation  of  Cathar  thought,  hidden 

in  elaborate  symbolism,  into  the  heart  of  orthodox  Christianity.  There 

may  be  some  exaggeration  in  that  assertion,  but  there  is  also  some 

truth.  During  the 

Albigensian  Crusade  ecclesiastics  fulminated  against  the  Grail  romances,  declaring  them 

to  be  pernicious,  if  not  heretical.  And  in  some  of  these  romances  there  are  isolated 

passages  which  are  not  only  highly  unorthodox,  but  quite  unmistakably  dualist  in  other 

words,  Cathar. 

What  is  more,  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach,  in  one  of  his  Grail  romances,  declares  that  the 

Grail  castle  was  situated  in  the  Pyrenees  an  assertion  which  Richard  Wagner,  at  any  rate, 

would  seem  to  have  taken  literally. 

According  to  Wolfram,  the  name  of  the  Grail  castle  was  Munsalvaesche  - 

a 


47 


Germanicised  version  apparently  of  Montsalvat,  a  Cathar  term.  And  in 

one  of  Wolfram's  poems  the  lord  of  the 

Grail  castle  is  named  Perilla.  Interestingly  enough,  the  lord  of 

Mpntsegur  was  Raimon  de  Pereille  whose  name,  in  its  Latin  form,  appears 

on  documents  of  the  period  as  Perilla. 9 

If  such  striking  coincidences  persisted  in  haunting  us,  they  must  also, 

we  concluded,  have  haunted  Sauniere  -who  was,  after  all,  steeped  in  the 

legends  and  folklore  of  the  region.  And  like  any  other  native  of  the 

region,  Sauniere  must  have  been  constantly  aware  of  the  proximity  of 

Montsegur,  whose  poignant  and  tragic  fate  still  dominates  local  consciousness.  But  for 

Sauniere  the  very  nearness  of  the  fortress  may  well  have  entailed  certain  practical 

implications. 

Something  had  been  smuggled  out  of  Montsegur  just  after  the  truce  expired. 

According  to  tradition,  the  four  men  who  escaped  from  the  doomed 

citadel  carried  with  them  the  Cathar  treasure.  But  the  monetary 

treasure  had  been  smuggled  out  three  months  earlier.  Could  the  Cathar 

'treasure',  like  the  'treasure'  Sauniere  discovered,  have  consisted 

primarily  of  a  secret?  Could  that  secret  have  been  related,  in  some 

unimaginable  way,  to  something  that  became  known  as  the  Holy  Grail?  It 

seemed  inconceivable  to  us  that  the 

Grail  romances  could  possibly  be  taken  literally. 

In  any  case,  whatever  was  smuggled  out  of  Montsegur  had  to  have  been 

taken  somewhere.  According  to  tradition,  it  was  taken  to  the  fortified 

caves  of 

Ornolac  in  the  Ariege,  where  a  band  of  Cathars  was  exterminated  shortly 

after.  But  nothing  save  skeletons  has  ever  been  found  at  Ornolac.  On 

the  other  hand,  Rennes-leChateau  is  only  half  a  day's  ride  on  horseback 

from 

Montsegur.  Whatever  was  smuggled  out  of  Montsegur  might  well  have  been  brought  to 

Rennes-leChateau,  or,  more  likely,  to  one  of  the  caves  which  honeycomb  the  surrounding 

mountains.  And  if  the  'secret'  of  Montsegur  was  what  Sauniere  subsequently  discovered, 

that  would  obviously  explain  a  great  deal. 

In  the  case  of  the  Cathars,  as  with  Sauniere,  the  word  'treasure'  seems 

to  hide  something  else  knowledge  or  information  of  some  kind.  Given 

the  tenacious  adherence  of  the  Cathars  to  their  creed  and  their 

militant  antipathy  to  Rome,  we  wondered  if  such  knowledge  or 


48 


information  (assuming  it  existed)  related  in  some  way  to  Christianity 

-to  the  doctrines  and  theology  of  Christianity,  perhaps  to  its  history  and 
origins.  Was  it  possible,  in  short,  that  the  Cathars  (or  at  least  certain 
Cathars)  knew  something  -something  that  contributed  to  the  frenzied  fervour  with 

which 

Rome  sought  their  extermination?  The  priest  who  had  written  to  us  had  referred  to 
'incontrovertible  proof.  Could  such  'proof  have  been  known  to  the  Cathars? 
At  the  time,  we  could  only  speculate  idly.  And  information  on  the  Cathars  was  in  general 
so  meagre  that  it  precluded  even  a  working  hypothesis.  On  the  other  hand  our  research 
into  the  Cathars  had  repeatedly  impinged  on  another  subject,  even  more  enigmatic  and 
mysterious,  and  surrounded  by  evocative  legends.  This  subject  was  the  Knights  Templar. 
It  was  therefore  to  the  Templars  that  we  next  directed  our  investigation. 
And  it  was  with  the  Templars  that  our  inquiries  began  to  yield  concrete 
documentation,  and  the  mystery  began  to  assume  far  greater  proportions 


49 


than  we  had  ever  imagined.  3  The  Warrior  Monks 

To  research  the  Knights  Templar  proved  a  daunting  undertaking.  The  voluminous 
quantity  of  written  material  devoted  to  the  subject  was  intimidating;  and  we  could  not  at 
first  be  sure  how  much  of  this  material  was  reliable.  If  the  Cathars  had  engendered  a 
welter  of  spurious  and  romantic  legend,  the  mystification  surrounding  the  Templars  was 
even  greater. 

On  one  level  they  were  familiar  enough  to  us  the  fanatically  fierce  warrior-monks,  knight- 
mystics  clad  in  white  mantle  with  splayed  red  cross,  who  played  so  crucial  a  role  in  the 
Crusades.  Here,  in  some  sense,  were  the  archetypal  crusaders  the  storm-troopers  of  the 
Holy  Land,  who  fought  and  died  heroically  for  Christ  in  their  thousands. 
Yet  many  writers,  even  today,  regarded  them  as  a  much  more  mysterious 
institution,  an  essentially  secret  order,  intent  on  obscure  intrigues, 
clandestine  machinations,  shadowy  conspiracies  and  designs.  And  there 
remained  one  perplexing  and  inexplicable  fact.  At  the  end  of  their 
two-century-long  career,  these  white  garbed  champions  of  Christ  were 
accused  of  denying  and  repudiating 
Christ,  of  trampling  and  spitting  on  the  cross. 

In  Scott's  Ivanhoe  the  Templars  are  depicted  as  haughty  and  arrogant 
bullies,  greedy  and  hypocritical  despots  shamelessly  abusing  their 
power,  cunning  manipulators  orchestrating  the  affairs  of  men  and 
kingdoms.  In  other  nineteenth-century  writers  they  are  depicted  as 
vile  satanists,  devil-worshippers,  practitioners  of  all  manner  of 
obscene,  abominable  and/or  heretical  rites.  More  recent  historians 
have  been  inclined  to  view  them  as  hapless  victims,  sacrificial  pawns 
in  the  high-level  political  manoeuvrings  of  Church  and  state.  And 
there  are  yet  other  writers,  especially  in  the  tradition  of 
Freemasonry,  who  regard  the  Templars  as  mystical  adepts  and  initiates, 


50 


custodians  of  an  arcane  wisdom  that  transcends  Christianity  itself. 

Whatever  the  particular  bias  or  orientation  of  such  writers,  no  one  disputes  the  heroic  zeal 

of  the  Templars  or  their  contribution  to  history. 

Nor  is  there  any  question  that  their  order  is  one  of  the  most  glamorous 

and  enigmatic  institutions  in  the  annals  of  Western  culture.  No 

account  of  the 

Crusades  or,  for  that  matter,  of  Europe  during  the  twelfth  and  thirteenth  centuries  will 

neglect  to  mention  the  Templars.  At  their  zenith  they  were  the  most  powerful  and 

influential  organisation  in  the  whole  of  Christendom,  with  the  single  possible  exception  of 

the  papacy. 

And  yet  certain  haunting  questions  remain.  Who  and  what  were  the 

Knights 

Templar?  Were  they  merely  what  they  appeared  to  be,  or  were  they  something  else? 

Were  they  simple  soldiers  on  to  whom  an  aura  of  legend  and  mystification  was 

subsequently  grafted?  If  so,  why?  Alternatively  was  there  a  genuine  mystery  connected 

with  them?  Could  there  have  been  some  foundation  for  the  later  embellishments  of  myth? 

We  first  considered  the  accepted  accounts  of  the  Templars  the  accounts  offered  by 

respected  and  responsible  historians.  On  virtually  every  point  these  accounts  raised  more 

questions  than  they  answered.  They  not  only  collapsed  under  scrutiny,  but  suggested 

some  sort  of  'cover-up'.  We  could  not  escape  the  suspicion  that  something  had  been 

deliberately  concealed  and  a  'cover  story'  manufactured,  which  later  historians  had  merely 

repeated. 

Knights  Templar  The  Orthodox  Account 

So  far  as  is  generally  known,  the  first  historical  information  on  the 

Templars  is  provided  by  a  Frankish  historian,  Guillaume  de  Tyre,  who 

wrote  between  1 1 75  and  1 1 85.  This  was  at  the  peak  of  the  Crusades, 

when  Western  armies  had  already  conquered  the  Holy  Land  and  established 

the  Kingdom  of  Jerusalem  or,  as  it  was  called  by  the  Templars 

themselves,  "Outremer',  the  "Land  Beyond  the  Sea'.  But  by  the  time 

Guillaume  de  Tyre  began  to  write,  Palestine  had  been  in  Western  hands 

for  seventy  years,  and  the  Templars  had  already  been  in  existence  for 


51 


more  than  fifty.  Guillaume  was  therefore  writing  of  events  which 

predated  his  own  lifetime  events  which  he  had  not  personally  witnessed  or  experienced, 

but  had  learnt  of  at  second  or  even  third  hand.  At  second  or  third  hand  and,  moreover,  on 

the  basis  of  uncertain  authority.  For  there  were  no  Western  chroniclers  in  Outremer 

between  1 127  and  1 144.  Thus  there  are  no  written  records  for  those  crucial  years. 

We  do  not,  in  short,  know  much  of  Guillaume's  sources,  and  this  may  well  call  some  of  his 

statements  into  question.  He  may  have  been  drawing  on  popular  word  of  mouth,  on  a 

none  too  reliable  oral  tradition. 

Alternatively,  he  may  have  consulted  the  Templars  themselves  and 

recounted  what  they  told  him.  If  this  is  so,  it  means  he  is  reporting 

only  what  the 

Templars  wanted  him  to  report. 

Granted,  Guillaume  does  provide  us  with  certain  basic  information;  and  it  is  this 

information  on  which  all  subsequent  accounts  of  the  Templars,  all  explanations  of  their 

foundation,  all  narratives  of  their  activities  have  been  based.  But  because  of  Guillaume's 

vagueness  and  sketchiness,  because  of  the  time  at  which  he  was  writing,  because  of  the 

death  of  documented  sources,  he  constitutes  a  precarious  basis  on  which  to  build  a 

definitive  picture.  Guillaume's  chronicles  are  certainly  useful.  But  it  is  a  mistake  and  one 

to  which  many  historians  have  succumbed  to  regard  them  as  unimpugnable  and  wholly 

accurate. 

Even  Guillaume's  dates,  as  Sir  Steven 

Runciman  stresses,  'are  confused  and  at  times  demonstrably  wrong'." 

According  to  Guillaume  de  Tyre,  the  Order  of  the  Poor  Knights  of  Christ 

and  the  Temple  of  Solomon  was  founded  in  1118.  Its  founder  is  said  to 

be  one 

Hugues  de  Payen,  a  nobleman  from  Champagne  and  vassal  of  the  count  of 

Champagne."  One  day  Hugues,  unsolicited,  presented  himself  with  eight 

comrades  at  the  palace  of  Baudouin  I  -king  of  Jerusalem,  whose  elder 

brother,  Godfroi  de  Bouillon,  had  captured  the  Holy  City  nineteen  years 

before.  Baudouin  seems  to  have  received  them  most  cordially,  as  did 

the 

Patriarch  of  Jerusalem  the  religious  leader  of  the  new  kingdom  and  special  emissary  of 

the  pope. 

The  declared  objective  of  the  Templars,  Guillaume  de  Tyre  continues, 

was,  'as  far  as  their  strength  permitted,  they  should  keep  the  roads 


52 


and  highways  safe  ..  .  with  especial  regard  for  the  protection  of 

pilgrims  '.3  So  worthy  was  this  objective  apparently  that  the  king  placed  an  entire  wing  of 

the  royal  palace  at  the  knights'  disposal.  And,  despite  their  declared  oath  of  poverty,  the 

knights  moved  into  this  lavish  accommodation.  According  to  tradition,  their  quarters  were 

built  on  the  foundations  of  the  ancient  Temple  of  Solomon,  and  from  this  the  fledgling 

Order  derived  its  name. 

For  nine  years,  Guillaume  de  Tyre  tells  us,  the  nine  knights  admitted 

no  new  candidates  to  their  Order.  They  were  still  supposed  to  be 

living  in  poverty  such  poverty  that  official  seals  show  two  knights 

riding  a  single  horse,  implying  not  only  brotherhood,  but  also  a  penury 

that  precluded  separate  mounts.  This  style  of  seal  is  often  regarded 

as  the  most  famous  and  distinctive  of  Templar  devices,  descending  from 

the  first  days  of  the 

Order.  However,  it  actually  dates  from  a  full  century  later,  when 

the 

Templars  were  hardly  poor  if,  indeed,  they  ever  were. 

According  to  Guillaume  de  Tyre,  writing  a  half  century  later,  the  Templars  were 

established  in  1118  and  moved  into  the  king's  palace  presumably  sallying  out  from  here  to 

protect  pilgrims  on  the  Holy  Land's  highways  and  byways.  And  yet  there  was,  at  this  time, 

an  official  royal  historian,  employed  by  the  king.  His  name  was  Fulk  de  Chartres,  and  he 

was  writing  not  fifty  years  after  the  Order's  purported  foundation  but  during  the  very  years 

in  question.  Curiously  enough,  Fulk  de  Chartres  makes  no  mention  whatever  of  Hugues 

de  Payen,  Hugues's  companions  or  anything  even  remotely  connected  with  the  Knights 

Templar.  Indeed  there  is  a  thunderous  silence  about  Templar  activities  during  the  early 

days  of  their  existence. 

Certainly  there  is  no  record  anywhere  not  even  later  of  them  doing  anything  to  protect 

pilgrims.  And  one  cannot  but  wonder  how  so  few  men  could  hope  to  fulfill  so  mammoth  a 

self-imposed  task.  Nine  men  to  protect  the  pilgrims  on  all  the  thoroughfares  of  the  Holy 

Land?  Only  nine?  And  all  pilgrims?  If  this  was  their  objective,  one  would  surely  expect 

them  to  welcome  new  recruits.  Yet,  according  to  Guillaume  de  Tyre,  they  admitted  no 

new  candidates  to  the  Order  for  nine  years. 

None  the  less,  within  a  decade  the  Templars'  fame  seems  to  have  spread 


53 


back  to  Europe.  Ecclesiastical  authorities  spoke  highly  of  them  and 
extolled  their  Christian  undertaking. 

By  1 128,  or  shortly  thereafter,  a  tract  lauding  their  virtues  and  qualities  was  issued  by  no 
less  a  person  than  Saint  Bernard,  abbot  of  Clairvaux  and  the  age's  chief  spokesman  for 
Christendom.  Bernard's  tract,  "In  Praise  of  the  New  Knighthood',  declares  the  Templars 
to  be  the  epitome  and  apotheosis  of  Christian  values. 

After  nine  years,  in  1 127,  most  of  the  nine  knights  returned  to  Europe  and  a  triumphal 
welcome,  orchestrated  in  large  part  by  Saint  Bernard. 
In 

January  1 128  a  Church  council  was  convened  at  Troyes  court  of  the  count  of 
Champagne,  Hugues  de  Payen's  liege  lord  at  which  Bernard  was  again  the  guiding  spirit. 
At  this  council  the  Templars  were  officially  recognised  and  incorporated  as  a  religious- 
military  order.  Hugues  de  Payen  was  given  the  title  of  Grand  Master.  He  and  his 
subordinates  were  to  be  warrior-monks,  soldier-mystics,  combining  the  austere  discipline 
of  the  cloister  with  a  martial  zeal  tantamount  to  fanaticism  a  "militia  of  Christ',  as  they  were 
called  at  the  time.  And  it  was  again  Saint  Bernard  who  helped  to  draw  up,  with  an 
enthusiastic  preface,  the  rule  of  conduct  to  which  the  knights  would  adhere  a  rule  based 
on  that  of  the  Cistercian  monastic  order,  in  which  Bernard  himself  was  a  dominant 
influence. 

The  Templa~s  were  sworn  to  poverty,  chastity  and  obedience.  They  were  obliged  to  cut 
their  hair  but  forbidden  to  cut  their  beards,  thus  distinguishing  themselves  in  an  age  when 
most  men  were  clean-shaven. 

Diet,  dress  and  other  aspects  of  daily  life  were  stringently  regulated 
in  accordance  with  both  monastic  and  military  routines.  All  members  of 
the 

Order  were  obliged  to  wear  white  habits  or  surcoats  and  cloaks,  and 
these  soon  evolved  into  the  distinctive  white  mantle  for  which  the 
Templars  became  famous.  "It  is  granted  to  none  to  wear  white  habits, 
or  to  have  white  mantles,  excepting  the  ..  .  Knights  of  Christ."  So 
stated  the 

Order's  rule,  which  elaborated  on  the  symbolic  significance  of  this 
apparel,  "To  all  the  professed  knights,  both  in  winter  and  in  summer, 
we  give,  if  they  can  be  procured,  white  garments,  that  those  who  have 


54 


cast  behind  them  a  dark  life  may  know  Map  4The  Major  Castles  and  Towns 
of  the  Holy  Land  in  the  Mid-Twelfth 
Century 
Ton.-  \s.r~a  1 

-  -  TRIPOLI 
-I 

_-  i 

_l 

Sidon  I 

I  DAMASCUS 

Beaofor<  — _7yrej 

-_A 

-_Tibenae  SraofGafilrr 

-I 

-  Cacaarea 


\ 

Jaffa  A  /  /  / 
-JERUSALEM  * 

Aaralon  -1 

_1-_C~1 

l)eadSca  1 

\l 

\  Kcrakl  \  1  \  1 

Ml  nc  real  \  1 

\l 

1  I 

1  I 

1  I 

1  I 

Petra  ~ 


55 


\1  \\  /  /  that  they  are  to  commend  themselves  to  their  creator  by  a 

pure  and  white  life.  '5 

In  addition  to  these  details,  the  rule  established  a  loose  administrative  hierarchy  and 

apparatus.  And  behaviour  on  the  battlefield  was  strictly  controlled.  If  captured,  for 

instance,  Templars  were  not  allowed  to  ask  for  mercy  or  to  ransom  themselves.  They 

were  compelled  to  fight  to  the  death. 

Nor  were  they  permitted  to  retreat,  unless  the  odds  against  them  exceeded  three  to  one. 

In  1 1396  a  Papal  Bull  was  issued  by  Pope  Innocent  II  a  former 

Cistercian  monk  at  Clairvaux  and  protege  of  Saint  Bernard.  According 

to  this  Bull,  the 

Templars  would  owe  allegiance  to  no  secular  or  ecclesiastical  power  other  than  the  pope 

himself.  In  other  words,  they  were  rendered  totally  independent  of  all  kings,  princes  and 

prelates,  and  all  interference  from  both  political  and  religious  authorities.  They  had 

become,  in  effect,  a  law  unto  themselves,  an  autonomous  international  empire. 

During  the  two  decades  following  the  Council  of  Troyes,  the  Order  expanded  with 

extraordinary  rapidity  and  on  an  extraordinary  scale. 

When  Hugues  de 

Payen  visited  England  in  late  1 128,  he  was  received  with  "great 

worship'  by 

King  Henry  I.  Throughout  Europe,  younger  sons  of  noble  families  flocked  to  enrol  in  the 

Order's  ranks,  and  vast  donations  in  money,  goods  and  land  were  made  from  every 

quarter  of  Christendom.  Hugues  de  Payen  donated  his  own  properties,  and  all  new 

recruits  were  obliged  to  do  likewise.  On  admission  to  the  Order,  a  man  was  compelled  to 

sign  over  all  his  possessions. 

Given  such  policies,  it  is  not  surprising  that  Templar  holdings 

proliferated.  Within  a  mere  twelve  months  of  the  Council  of  Troyes, 

the 

Order  held  substantial  estates  in  France,  England,  Scotland, 

Flanders, 

Spain  and  Portugal.  Within  another  decade,  it  also  held  territory  in 

Italy, 

Austria,  Germany,  Hungary,  the  Holy  Land  and  points  east.  Although  individual  knights 

were  bound  to  their  vow  of  poverty,  this  did  not  prevent  the  Order  from  amassing  wealth, 

and  on  an  unprecedented  scale.  All  gifts  were  welcomed.  At  the  same  time,  the  Order 

was  forbidden  to  dispose  of  anything  not  even  to  ransom  its  leaders.  The  Temple 

received  in  abundance  but,  as  a  matter  of  strict  policy,  it  never  gave. 

When  Hugues  de  Payen  returned  to  Palestine  in  1 130,  therefore,  with  an 


56 


entourage  quite  considerable  for  the  time  of  some  three  hundred 

knights,  he  left  behind,  in  the  custody  of  other  recruits,  vast  tracts  of  European  territory. 

In  1 146  the  Templars  adopted  the  famous  splayed  red  cross  the  cross  pat  tee  With  this 

device  emblazoned  on  their  mantles,  the  knights  accompanied  King  Louis  VII  of  France  on 

the  Second  Crusade.  Here  they  established  their  reputation  for  martial  zeal  coupled  with 

an  almost  insane  foolhardiness,  and  a  fierce  arrogance  as  well.  On  the  whole,  however, 

they  were  magnificently  disciplined  -the  most  disciplined  fighting  force  in  the  world  at  the 

time.  The  French  king  himself  wrote  that  it  was  the  Templars  alone  who  prevented  the 

Second  Crusade  ill-conceived  and  mismanaged  as  it  was  from  degenerating  into  a  total 

debacle. 

During  the  next  hundred  years  the  Templars  became  a  power  with 

international  influence.  They  were  constantly  engaged  in  high-level 

diplomacy  between  nobles  and  monarchs  throughout  the  Western  world  and 

the 

Holy  Land.  In  England,  for  example,  the  Master  of  the  Temple  was  regularly  called  to  the 

king's  Parliament,  and  was  regarded  as  head  of  all  religious  orders,  taking  precedence 

over  all  priors  and  abbots  in  the  land.  Maintaining  close  links  with  both  Henry  II  and 

Thomas  a  Becket,  the  Templars  were  instrumental  in  trying  to  reconcile  the  sovereign  and 

his  estranged  archbishop.  Successive  English  kings,  including  King  John,  often  resided  in 

the  Temple's  London  preceptory,  and  the  Master  of  the  Order  stood  by  the  monarch's  side 

at  the  signing  of  the  Magna  Carta." 

Nor  was  the  Order's  political  involvement  confined  to  Christendom  alone. 

Close  links  were  forged  with  the  Muslim  world  as  well  the  world  so 

often  opposed  on  the  battlefield  and  the  Templars  commanded  a  respect 

from 

Saracen  leaders  exceeding  that  accorded  any  other  Europeans.  Secret  connections  were 

also  maintained  with  the  Hashishim  or  Assassins,  the  famous  sect  of  militant  and  often 

fanatical  adepts  who  were  Islam's  equivalent  of  the  Templars.  The  Hashishim  paid  tribute 

to  the  Templars  and  were  rumoured  to  be  in  their  employ. 

On  almost  every  political  level  the  Templars  acted  as  official  arbiters 

in  disputes,  and  even  kings  submitted  to  their  authority.  In  1252 

Henry  III  of 


57 


England  dared  to  challenge  them,  threatening  to  confiscate  certain  of 

their  domains.  "You 

Templars  ..  .  have  so  many  liberties  and  charters  that  your  enormous 

possessions  make  you  rave  with  pride  and  haughtiness.  What  was 

imprudently  given  must  therefore  be  prudently  revoked;  and  what  was 

inconsiderately  bestowed  must  be  considerately  recalled."  The  Master 

of  the  Order  replied, 

"What  say  est  thou,  O  King?  Far  be  it  that  thy  mouth  should  utter  so  disagreeable  and 

silly  a  word.  So  long  as  thou  dost  exercise  justice,  thou  wilt  reign.  But  if  thou  infringe  it, 

thou  wilt  cease  to  be  King."  It  is  difficult  to  convey  to  the  modern  mind  the  enormity  and 

audacity  of  this  statement.  Implicitly  the  Master  is  taking  for  his  Order  and  himself  a 

power  that  not  even  the  papacy  dared  explicitly  claim  the  power  to  make  or  depose 

monarchs. 

At  the  same  time,  the  Templars'  interests  extended  beyond  war, 

diplomacy  and  political  intrigue.  In  effect  they  created  and 

established  the  institution  of  modern  banking.  By  lending  vast  sums  to 

destitute  monarchs  they  became  the  bankers  for  every  throne  in  Europe 

and  for  certain  Muslim  potentates  as  well.  With  their  network  of 

preceptories  throughout  Europe  and  the  Middle  East,  they  also 

organised,  at  modest  interest  rates,  the  safe  and  efficient  transfer  of 

money  for  merchant  traders,  a  class  which  became  increasingly  dependent 

upon  them.  Money  deposited  in  one  city,  for  example,  could  be  claimed 

and  withdrawn  in  another,  by  means  of  promissory  notes  inscribed  in 

intricate  codes.  The  Templars  thus  became  the  primary  money-changers 

of  the  age,  and  the  Paris  preceptory  became  the  centre  of 

European  finance. 9  It  is  even  probable  that  the  cheque,  as  we  know  and  use  it  today,  was 

invented  by  the  Order. 

And  the  Templars  traded  not  only  in  money,  but  in  thought  as  well.  Through  their 

sustained  and  sympathetic  contact  with  Islamic  and  Judaic  culture,  they  came  to  act  as  a 

clearing-house  for  new  ideas,  new  dimensions  of  knowledge,  new  sciences.  They 

enjoyed  a  veritable  monopoly  on  the  best  and  most  advanced  technology  of  their  age  the 

best  that  could  be  produced  by  armourers,  leather-workers,  stone  masons  military 

architects  and  engineers. 

They  contributed  to  the  development  of  surveying,  map-making, 

road-building  and  navigation.  They  possessed  their  own  sea-ports, 


58 


shipyards  and  fleet  a  fleet  both  commercial  and  military,  which  was 

among  the  first  to  use  the  magnetic  compass.  And  as  soldiers,  the  Templars'  need  to 

treat  wounds  and  illness  made  them  adept  in  the  use  of  drugs.  The  Order  maintained  its 

own  hospitals  with  its  own  physicians  and  surgeons  whose  use  of  mould  extract  suggests 

an  understanding  of  the  properties  of  antibiotics.  Modern  principles  of  hygiene  and 

cleanliness  were  understood.  And  with  an  understanding  also  in  advance  of  their  time 

they  regarded  epilepsy  not  as  demonic  possession  but  as  a  controllable  disease.  ' 

Inspired  by  its  own  accomplishments,  the  Temple  in  Europe  grew  increasingly  wealthy, 

powerful  and  complacent.  Not  surprisingly  perhaps,  it  also  grew  increasingly  arrogant, 

brutal  and  corrupt.  "To  drink  like  a  Templar'  became  a  cliche  of  the  time.  And  certain 

sources  assert  that  the  Order  made  a  point  of  recruiting  excommunicated  knights. 

But  while  the  Templars  attained  both  prosperity  and  notoriety  in 

Europe,  the  situation  in  the  Holy  Land  had  seriously  deteriorated.  In 

11 85  King 

Baudouin  IV  of  Jerusalem  died.  In  the  dynastic  squabble  that 

followed, 

Gerard  de  Ridefort,  Grand  Master  of  the  Temple,  betrayed  an  oath  made 

to  the  dead  monarch,  and  thereby  brought  the  European  community  in 

Palestine  to  the  brink  of  civil  war.  Nor  was  this  Ridefort's  only 

questionable  action.  His  cavalier  attitude  towards  the  Saracens 

precipitated  the  rupture  of  a  long-standing  truce,  and  provoked  a  new 

cycle  of  hostilities.  Then,  in 

July  1 187,  Ridefort  led  his  knights,  along  with  the  rest  of  the 

Christian  army,  into  a  rash,  misconceived  and,  as  it  transpired, 

disastrous  battle  at 

Hattin.  The  Christian  forces  were  virtually  annihilated;  and  two 

months  later  Jerusalem  itself  captured  nearly  a  century  before  was 

again  in 

Saracen  hands. 

During  the  following  century  the  situation  became  increasingly 

hopeless.  By  1291  nearly  the  whole  of  Outremer  had  fallen,  and  the 

Holy  Land  was  almost  entirely  under  Muslim  control.  Only  Acre 

remained,  and  in  May  1291  this  last  fortress  was  lost  as  well.  In 

defending  the  doomed  city,  the  Templars  showed  themselves  at  their  most 

heroic.  The  Grand  Master  himself,  though  severely  wounded,  continued 

fighting  until  his  death.  As  there  was  only  limited  space  in  the 


59 


Order's  galleys,  the  women  and  children  were  evacuated,  while  all 

knights,  even  the  wounded,  chose  to  remain  behind.  When  the  last  bastion  in  Arce  fell,  it 

did  so  with  apocalyptic  intensity,  the  walls  collapsing  and  burying  attackers  and  defenders 

alike. 

The  Templars  established  their  new  headquarters  in  Cyprus;  but  with  the  loss  of  the  Holy 

Land,  they  had  effectively  been  deprived  of  their  raison  d'etre.  As  there  were  no  longer 

any  accessible  infidel  lands  to  conquer,  the  Order  began  to  turn  its  attention  towards 

Europe,  hoping  to  find  there  a  justification  for  its  continued  existence. 

A  century  before,  the  Templars  had  presided  over  the  foundation  of 

another  chivalric,  religious-military  order,  the  Teutonic  Knights.  The 

latter  were  active  in  small  numbers  in  the  Middle  East,  but  by  the 

mid-thirteenth  century  had  turned  their  attention  to  the  north-eastern 

frontiers  of 

Christendom.  Here  they  had  carved  out  an  independent  principality  for 

themselves  the  Ordenstoat  or  Ordensland,  which  encompassed  almost  the 

whole  of  the  eastern  Baltic.  In  this  principality  which  extended 

from 

Prussia  to  the  Gulf  of  Finland  and  what  is  now  Russian  soil  the 

Teutonic 

Knights  enjoyed  an  unchallenged  sovereignty,  far  from  the  reach  of  both  secular  and 

ecclesiastical  control. 

From  the  very  inception  of  the  Ordenstaat,  the  Templars  had  envied  the 

independence  and  immunity  of  their  kindred  order.  After  the  fall  of 

the 

Holy  Land,  they  thought  increasingly  of  a  state  of  their  own  in  which 

they  might  exercise  the  same  untrammelled  authority  and  autonomy  as  the 

Teutonic 

Knights.  Unlike  the  Teutonic  Knights,  however,  the  Templars  were  not 

interested  in  the  harsh  wilderness  of  Eastern  Europe.  By  now  they  were 

too  accustomed  to  luxury  and  opulence.  Accordingly,  they  dreamed  of 

founding  their  state  on  more  accessible,  more  congenial  soil  that  of 

the 

Languedoc." 

From  its  earliest  years,  the  Temple  had  maintained  a  certain  warm 

rapport  with  the  Cathars,  especially  in  the  Languedoc.  Many  wealthy 

landowners  Cathars  themselves  or  sympathetic  to  the  Cathars  had  donated 

vast  tracts  of  land  to  the  Order.  According  to  a  recent  writer,  at 

least  one  of  the  co-founders  of  the  Temple  was  a  Cathar.  This  seems 

somewhat  improbable,  but  it  is  beyond  dispute  that  Bertrand  de 


60 


Blanchefort,  fourth  Grand  Master  of  the  Order,  came  from  a  Cathar 

family.  Forty  years  after  Bertrand's  death,  his  descendants  were 

fighting  side  by  side  with  other  Cathar  lords  against  the  Northern 

invaders  of  Simon  de  Montfort.  '2 

During  the  Albigensian  Crusade,  the  Templars  ostensibly  remained 

neutral,  confining  themselves  to  the  role  of  witnesses.  At  the  same 

time,  however,  the  Grand  Master  at  the  time  would  seem  to  have  made  the 

Order's  position  clear  when  he  declared  there  was  in  fact  only  one  true 

Crusade  the 

Crusade  against  the  Saracens.  Moreover,  a  careful  examination  of 

contemporary  accounts  reveals  that  the  Templars  provided  a  haven  for 

many 

Cathar  refugees."?  On  occasion  they  do  seem  to  have  taken  up  arms  on 

these  refugees'  behalf.  And  an  inspection  of  the  Order's  rolls  towards 

the  beginning  of  the  Albigensian  Crusade  reveals  a  major  influx  of 

Cathars  into  the  Temple's  ranks  where  not  even  Simon  de  Montfort's 

crusaders  would  dare  to  challenge  them.  Indeed,  the  Templar  rolls  of 

the  period  show  that  a  significant  proportion  of  the  Order's 

high-ranking  dignitaries  were  from 

Cathar  families.  14  In  the  Languedoc  Temple  officials  were  more 

frequently 

Cathar  than  Catholic.  What  is  more,  the  Cathar  nobles  who  enrolled  in 

the 

Temple  do  not  appear  to  have  moved  about  the  world  as  much  as  their 

Catholic  brethren.  On  the  contrary,  they  appear  to  have  remained  for  the  most  part  in  the 

Languedoc,  thus  creating  for  the  Order  a  long-standing  and  stable  base  in  the  region. 

By  virtue  of  their  contact  with  Islamic  and  Judaic  cultures,  the 

Templars  had  already  absorbed  a  great  many  ideas  alien  to  orthodox 

Roman 

Christianity.  Templar  Masters,  for  example,  often  employed  Arab  secretaries,  and  many 

Templars,  having  learnt  Arabic  in  captivity,  were  fluent  in  the  language.  A  close  rapport 

was  also  maintained  with  Jewish  communities,  financial  interests  and  scholarship.  The 

Templars  had  thus  been  exposed  to  many  things  Rome  would  not  ordinarily  countenance. 

Through  the  influx  of  Cathar  recruits,  they  were  now  exposed  to  Gnostic  dualism  as  well  if, 

indeed,  they  had  ever  really  been  strangers  to  it. 

By  1306  Philippe  IV  of  France  Philippe  le  Bel  was  acutely  anxious  to  rid  his  territory  of  the 

Templars.  They  were  arrogant  and  unruly. 


61 


They  were  efficient  and  highly  trained,  a  professional  military  force 

much  stronger  and  better  organised  than  any  he  himself  could  muster. 

They  were  firmly  established  throughout 

France,  and  by  this  time  even  their  allegiance  to  the  pope  was  only  nominal. 

Philippe  had  no  control  over  the  Order.  He  owed  it  money.  He  had  been  humiliated 

when,  fleeing  a  rebellious  Paris  mob,  he  was  obliged  to  seek  abject  refuge  in  the  Temple's 

preceptory.  He  coveted  the  Templars'  immense  wealth,  which  his  sojourn  in  their 

premises  made  flagrantly  apparent  to  him. 

And,  having  applied  to  join  the  Order  as  a  postulant,  he  had  suffered  the  indignity  of  being 

haughtily  rejected.  These  factors  together,  of  course,  with  the  alarming  prospect  of  an 

independent  Templar  state  at  his  back  door  were  sufficient  to  spur  the  king  to  action.  And 

heresy  was  a  convenient  excuse. 

Philippe  first  had  to  enlist  the  co-operation  of  the  pope,  to  whom,  in  theory  at  any  rate,  the 

Templars  owed  allegiance  and  obedience.  Between  1303  and  1305,  the  French  king  and 

his  ministers  engineered  the  kidnapping  and  death  of  one  pope  (Boniface  VIII)  and  quite 

possibly  the  murder  by  poison  of  another  (Benedict  XI).  Then,  in  1305,  Philippe  managed 

to  secure  the  election  of  his  own  candidate,  the  archbishop  of  Bordeaux,  to  the  vacant 

papal  throne.  The  new  pontiff  took  the  name  Clement  V.  Indebted  as  he  was  to  Philippe's 

influence,  he  could  hardly  refuse  the  king's  demands. 

Philippe  planned  his  moves  carefully.  A  list  of  charges  was  compiled,  partly  from  the 

king's  spies  who  had  infiltrated  the  Order,  partly  from  the  voluntary  confession  of  an 

alleged  renegade  Templar.  Armed  with  these  accusations,  Philippe  could  at  last  move; 

and  when  he  delivered  his  blow,  it  was  sudden,  swift,  efficient  and  lethal.  In  a  security 

operation  worthy  of  the  SS  or  Gestapo,  the  king  issued  sealed  and  secret  orders  to  his 

seneschals  throughout  the  country.  These  orders  were  to  be  opened  everywhere 

simultaneously  and  implemented  at  once. 

At  dawn  on  Friday, 

October  13th,  1307,  all  Templars  in  France  were  to  be  seized  and  placed 

under  arrest  by  the  king's  men,  their  preceptories  placed  under  royal 

sequestration,  their  goods  confiscated.  But  although  Philippe's 

objective  of  surprise  might  seem  to  have  been  achieved,  his  primary 

interest  the 


62 


Order's  immense  wealth  eluded  him.  It  was  never  found,  and  what 

became  of  the  fabulous  'treasure  of  the  Templars'  has  remained  a  mystery. 

In  fact  it  is  doubtful  whether  Philippe's  surprise  attack  on  the  Order  was  as  unexpected  as 

he,  or  subsequent  historians,  believed.  There  is  considerable  evidence  to  suggest  the 

Templars  received  some  kind  of  advance  warning.  Shortly  before  the  arrests,  for 

example,  the  Grand  Master,  Jacques  de  Molay,  called  in  many  of  the  Order's  books  and 

extant  rules,  and  had  them  burnt.  A  knight  who  withdrew  from  the  Order  at  this  time  was 

told  by  the  treasurer  that  he  was  extremely  'wise',  as  catastrophe  was  imminent.  An 

official  note  was  circulated  to  all  French  preceptories,  stressing  that  no  information 

regarding  the  Order's  customs  and  rituals  was  to  be  released. 

In  any  case,  whether  the  Templars  were  warned  in  advance  or  whether 

they  deduced  what  was  in  the  wind,  certain  precautions  were  definitely 

taken.  '5 

In  the  first  place  the  knights  who  were  captured  seem  to  have  submitted  passively,  as  if 

under  instructions  to  do  so.  At  no  point  is  there  any  record  of  the  Order  in  France  actively 

resisting  the  king's  seneschals. 

In  the  second  place  there  is  persuasive  evidence  of  some  sort  of 

organised  flight  by  a  particular  group  of  knights  virtually  all  of  whom 

were  in  some  way  connected  with  the  Order's  Treasurer.  It  is  not 

perhaps  surprising,  therefore,  that  the  treasure  of  the  Temple, 

together  with  almost  all  its  documents  and  records,  should  have 

disappeared.  Persistent  but  unsubstantiated  rumours  speak  of  the 

treasure  being  smuggled  by  night  from  the  Paris  preceptory,  shortly 

before  the  arrests.  According  to  these  rumours,  it  was  transported  by 

wagons  to  the  coast  presumably  to  the 

Order's  naval  base  at  La  Rochelle  and  loaded  into  eighteen  galleys,  which  were  never 

heard  of  again.  Whether  this  is  true  or  not,  it  would  seem  that  the  Templars'  fleet  escaped 

the  king's  clutches  because  there  is  no  report  of  any  of  the  Order's  ships  being  taken.  On 

the  contrary,  those  ships  appear  to  have  vanished  totally,  along  with  whatever  they  might 

have  been  carrying." 

In  France  the  arrested  Templars  were  tried  and  many  subjected  to  torture. 

Strange  confessions  were  extracted  and  even  stranger  accusations  made. 


63 


Grim  rumours  began  to  circulate  about  the  country.  The  Templars 

supposedly  worshipped  a  devil  called  Baphomet.  At  their  secret  ceremonies  they 

supposedly  prostrated  themselves  before  a  bearded  male  head,  which  spoke  to  them  and 

invested  them  with  occult  powers.  Unauthorised  witnesses  of  these  ceremonies  were 

never  seen  again.  And  there  were  other  charges  as  well,  which  were  even  more  vague:  of 

infanticide;  of  teaching  women  how  to  abort;  of  obscene  kisses  at  the  induction  of 

postulants;  of  homosexuality.  But  of  all  the  charges  levelled  against  these  soldiers  of 

Christ,  who  had  fought  and  laid  down  their  lives  for  Christ,  one  stands  out  as  most  bizarre 

and  seemingly  improbable.  They  were  accused  of  ritually  denying  Christ,  of  repudiating, 

trampling  and  spitting  on  the  cross. 

In  France,  at  least,  the  fate  of  the  arrested  Templars  was  effectively  sealed.  Philippe 

harried  them  savagely  and  mercilessly.  Many  were  burned,  many  more  imprisoned  and 

tortured.  At  the  same  time  the  king  continued  to  bully  the  pope,  demanding  ever  more 

stringent  measures  against  the  Order. 

After  resisting  for  a  time,  the  pope  gave  way  in  1312,  and  the 

Knights 

Templar  were  officially  dissolved  without  a  conclusive  verdict  of  guilt  or  innocence  ever 

being  pronounced.  But  in  Philippe's  domains,  the  trials,  inquiries  and  investigations 

continued  for  another  two  years. 

At  last,  in 

March  1314,  Jacques  de  Molay,  the  Grand  Master,  and  Geoffroi  de 

Charnay, 

Preceptor  of  Normandy,  were  roasted  to  death  over  a  slow  fire.  With  their  execution,  the 

Templars  ostensibly  vanish  from  the  stage  of  history. 

Nevertheless,  the  Order  did  not  cease  to  exist.  Given  the  number  of  knights  who 

escaped,  who  remained  at  large  or  who  were  acquitted,  it  would  be  surprising  if  it  had. 

Philippe  had  tried  to  influence  his  fellow  monarchs,  hoping  thereby  to  ensure  that  no 

Templar,  anywhere  in  Christendom,  should  be  spared. 

Indeed,  the  king's  zeal  in  this  respect  is  almost  suspicious.  One  can 

perhaps  understand  him  wanting  to  rid  his  own  domains  of  the  Order's 

presence.  It  is  rather  less  clear  why  he  should  have  been  so  intent  on 

exterminating 

Templars  elsewhere.  Certainly  he  himself  was  no  model  of  virtue;  and 

it  is  difficult  to  imagine  a  monarch  who  arranged  for  the  deaths  of  two 


64 


popes  being  genuinely  distressed  by  infringements  of  faith.  Did 

Philippe  simply  fear  vengeance  if  the  Order  remained  intact  outside  France?  Or  was  there 

something  else  involved? 

In  any  case,  his  attempt  to  eliminate  Templars  outside  France  was  not 

altogether  successful.  Philippe's  own  sonin-law,  for  example,  Edward 

II  of 

England,  at  first  rallied  to  the  Order's  defence.  Eventually, 

pressured  by  both  the  pope  and  the  French  king,  he  complied  with  their 

demands,  but  only  partially  and  tepidly.  Although  most  Templars  in 

England  seem  to  have  escaped  completely,  a  number  were  arrested.  Of 

these,  however,  most  received  only  light  sentences  sometimes  no  more 

than  a  few  years'  penance  in  abbeys  and  monasteries,  where  they  lived 

in  generally  comfortable  conditions.  Their  lands  were  eventually 

consigned  to  the  Knights 

Hospitaller  of  Saint  John,  but  they  themselves  were  spared  the  vicious  persecution  visited 

upon  their  brethren  in  France. 

Elsewhere  the  elimination  of  the  Templars  met  with  even  greater  difficulty. 

Scotland,  for  instance,  was  at  war  with  England  at  the  time,  and  the  consequent  chaos  left 

little  opportunity  for  implementing  legal  niceties. 

Thus  the  Papal  Bulls  dissolving  the  Order  were  never  proclaimed  in  Scotland  and  in 

Scotland,  therefore,  the  Order  was  never  technically  dissolved. 

Many  English  and,  it  would  appear,  French  Templars  found  a  Scottish 

refuge,  and  a  sizeable  contingent  is  said  to  have  fought  at  Robert 

Bruce's  side  at  the  Battle  of  Bannockburn  in  1314.  According  to  legend 

coherent  body  in 

Scotland  for  another  four  centuries.  In  the  fighting  of  1 688-91 ,  James 

II  of  England  was  deposed  by  William  of  Orange.  In  Scotland  supporters 

of  the  beleaguered  Stuart  monarch  rose  in  revolt  and,  at  the  Battle 

of 

Killiecrankie  in  1689,  John  Claverhouse,  Viscount  of  Dundee,  was  killed  on  the  field. 

When  his  body  was  recovered,  he  was  reportedly  found  to  be  wearing  the  Grand  Cross  of 

the  Order  of  the  Temple  -not  a  recent  device  supposedly,  but  one  dating  from  before 

1307." 

In  Lorraine,  which  was  part  of  Germany  at  the  time,  not  part  of  France, 

the 

Templars  were  supported  by  the  duke  of  the  principality.  A  few  were 

tried  and  exonerated.  Most,  it  seems,  obeyed  their  Preceptor,  who 

reputedly  advised  them  to  shave  their  beards,  don  secular  garb  and 


65 


assimilate  themselves  into  the  local  populace. 

In  Germany  proper  the  Templars  openly  defied  their  judges,  threatening  to  take  up  arms. 

Intimidated,  their  judges  pronounced  them  innocent;  and  when  the  Order  was  officially 

dissolved,  many  German  Templars  found  a  haven  in  the  Hospitallers  of  Saint  John  and  in 

the  Teutonic  Order.  In  Spain,  too,  the  Templars  resisted  their  persecutors  and  found  a 

refuge  in  other  orders. 

In  Portugal  the  Order  was  cleared  by  an  inquiry  and  simply  modified  its 

name,  becoming  Knights  of  Christ.  Under  this  title  they  functioned 

well  into  the  sixteenth  century,  devoting  themselves  to  maritime 

activity.  Vasco  da  Gama  was  a  Knight  of  Christ,  and  Prince  Henry  the 

Navigator  was  a  Grand 

Master  of  the  Order.  Ships  of  the  Knights  of  Christ  sailed  under  the 

familiar  red  pat  tee  cross.  And  it  was  under  the  same  cross  that 

Christopher 

Columbus's  three  caravels  crossed  the  Atlantic  to  the  New  World.  Columbus  himself  was 

married  to  the  daughter  of  a  former  Knight  of  Christ,  and  had  access  to  his  father-inlaw's 

charts  and  diaries. 

Thus,  in  a  number  of  diverse  ways,  the  Templars  survived  the  attack 

of 

October  13th,  1307.  And  in  1522  the  Templars'  Prussian  progeny,  the 

Teutonic  Knights,  seculari  sed  themselves,  repudiated  their  allegiance 

to 

Rome  and  threw  their  support  behind  an  upstart  rebel  and  heretic 

named 

Martin  Luther.  Two  centuries  after  their  dissolution,  the  Templars,  however  vicariously, 

were  exacting  revenge  on  the  Church  which  had  betrayed  them. 

Knights  Templar  The  Mysteries 

In  greatly  abridged  form,  this  is  the  history  of  the  Knights  Templar  as 

writers  have  accepted  and  presented  it,  and  as  we  encountered  it  in  our 

research.  But  we  quickly  discovered  that  there  was  another  dimension 

to  the  Order's  history,  considerably  more  elusive,  more  provocative  and 

more  speculative.  Even  during  their  existence,  a  mystique  had  come  to 

surround  the  knights.  Some  said  they  were  sorcerers  and  magicians, 

secret  adepts  and  alchemists.  Many  of  their  contemporaries  shunned 

them,  believing  them  to  be  in  league  with  unclean  powers.  As  early  as 


66 


1208,  at  the  beginning  of  the  Albigensian  Crusade,  Pope  Innocent  III 

had  admonished  "the  Templars  for  un-Christian  behaviour,  and  referred  explicitly  to 

necromancy.  On  the  other  hand,  there  were  individuals  who  praised  them  with 

extravagant  enthusiasm. 

In  the  late  twelfth  century  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach,  greatest  of 

medieval 

Minnesanger  or  romanciers,  paid  a  special  visit  to  Outremer,  to  witness 

the 

Order  in  action.  And  when,  between  1 195  and  1220,  Wolfram  composed  his 

epic  romance  Parzival,  he  conferred  on  the  Templars  a  most  exalted 

status.  In 

Wolfram's  poem  the  knights  who  guard  the  Holy  Grail,  the  Grail  castle 

and  the  Grail  family,  are  Templars. "e 

After  the  Temple's  demise,  the  mystique  surrounding  it  persisted.  The 

final  recorded  act  in  the  Order's  history  had  been  the  burning  of  the 

last  Grand 

Master,  Jacques  de  Molay,  in  March  1314.  As  the  smoke  from  the  slow 

fire  choked  the  life  from  his  body,  Jacques  de  Molay  is  said  to  have 

issued  an  imprecation  from  the  flames.  According  to  tradition,  he 

called  his  persecutors  Pope  Clement  and  King  Philippe  to  join  him  and 

account  for  themselves  before  the  court  of  God  within  the  year.  Within 

a  month  Pope 

Clement  was  dead,  supposedly  from  a  sudden  onslaught  of  dysentery.  By  the  end  of  the 

year  Philippe  was  dead  as  well,  from  causes  that  remain  obscure  to  this  day.  There  is,  of 

course,  no  need  to  look  for  supernatural  explanations.  The  Templars  possessed  great 

expertise  in  the  use  of  poisons. 

And  there  were  certainly  enough  people  about  refugee  knights  travelling  incognito, 

sympathisers  of  the  Order  or  relatives  of  persecuted  brethren  to  exact  the  appropriate 

vengeance.  Nevertheless,  the  apparent  fulfilment  of  the  Grand  Master's  curse  lent 

credence  to  belief  in  the  Order's  occult  powers.  Nor  did  the  curse  end  there.  According  to 

legend,  it  was  to  cast  a  pall  over  the  French  royal  line  far  into  the  future.  And  thus  echoes 

of  the  Templars'  supposed  mystic  power  reverberated  down  the  centuries. 

By  the  eighteenth  century  various  secret  and  semi  secret 

confraternities  were  lauding  the  Templars  as  both  precursors  and 

mystical  initiates.  Many 

Freemasons  of  the  period  appropriated  the  Templars  as  their  own 

antecedents.  Certain  Masonic  "rites'  or  "observances'  claimed  direct 

lineal  descent  from  the  Order,  as  well  as  authorised  custody  of  its 


67 


arcane  secrets.  Some  of  these  claims  were  patently  preposterous. 

Others  resting,  for  example,  on  the 

Order's  possible  survival  in  Scotland  -may  well  have  a  core  of  validity,  even  if  the 

attendant  trappings  are  spurious. 

By  1789  the  legends  surrounding  the  Templars  had  attained  positively  mythic  proportions, 

and  their  historical  reality  was  obscured  by  an  aura  of  obfuscation  and  romance.  They 

were  regarded  as  occult  adepts,  illumined  alchemists,  magi  and  sages,  master  masons 

and  high  initiates  veritable  supermen  endowed  with  an  awesome  arsenal  of  arcane  power 

and  knowledge. 

They  were  also  regarded  as  heroes  and  martyrs,  harbingers  of  the  anticlerical  spirit  of  the 

age;  and  many  French  Freemasons,  in  conspiring  against  Louis  XVI,  felt  they  were 

helping  to  implement  Jacques  de  Molay's  dying  curse  on  the  French  line.  When  the  king's 

head  fell  beneath  the  guillotine,  an  unknown  man  is  reported  to  have  leaped  on  to  the 

scaffold. 

He  dipped  his  hand  in  the  monarch's  blood,  flung  it  out  over  the  surrounding  throng  and 

cried,  "Jacques  de  Molay,  thou  art  avenged!" 

Since  the  French  Revolution  the  aura  surrounding  the  Templars  has  not 

diminished.  At  least  three  contemporary  organisations  today  call 

themselves 

Templars,  claiming  to  possess  a  pedigree  from  1314  and  charters  whose  authenticity  has 

never  been  established.  Certain  Masonic  lodges  have  adopted  the  grade  of  "Templar',  as 

well  as  rituals  and  appellations  supposedly  descended  from  the  original  Order.  Towards 

the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century,  a  sinister  "Order  of  the  New  Templars'  was  established 

in  Germany  and  Austria,  employing  the  swastika  as  one  of  its  emblems. 

Figures  like  H.  P.  Blavatsky,  founder  of  Theosophy,  and  Rudolf  Steiner, 

founder  of  Anthroposophy,  spoke  of  an  esoteric  'wisdom  tradition' 

running  back  through  the  Rosicrucians  to  the  Cathars  and  Templars  who 

were  purportedly  repositories  of  more  ancient  secrets  still.  In  the 

United 

States  teenage  boys  are  admitted  into  the  De  Molay  Society,  without 

either  they  or  their  mentors  having  much  notion  whence  the  name 

derives.  In 

Britain,  as  well  as  elsewhere  in  the  West,  recondite  rotary  clubs 

dignify  themselves  with  the  name  "Templar'  and  include  eminent  public 

figures.  From  the  heavenly  kingdom  he  sought  to  conquer  with  his 

sword,  Hugues  de  Payen  must  now  look  down  with  a  certain  wry 


68 


perplexity  on  the  latter-day  knights,  balding,  paunched  and 

bespectacled,  that  he  engendered.  And  yet  he  must  also  be  impressed  by  the  durability 
and  vitality  of  his  legacy. 

In  France  this  legacy  is  particularly  powerful.  Indeed,  the  Templars 
are  a  veritable  industry  in  France,  as  much  as  Glastonbury,  ley-lines 
or  the  Loch 

Ness  Monster  are  in  Britain.  In  Paris  book  shops  are  filled  with  histories  and  accounts  of 
the  Order  some  valid,  some  plunging  enthusiastically  into  lunacy.  During  the  last  quarter- 
century  or  so  a  number  of  extravagant  claims  have  been  advanced  on  behalf  of  the 
Templars,  some  of  which  may  not  be  wholly  without  foundation.  Certain  writers  have 
credited  them,  at  least  in  large  part,  with  the  building  of  the  Gothic  cathedrals  or  at  least 
with  providing  an  impetus  of  some  sort  to  that  burst  of  architectural  energy  and  genius. 
Other  writers  have  argued  that  the  Order  established  commercial  contact  with  the 
Americas  as  early  as  1269,  and  derived  much  of  its  wealth  from  imported  Mexican  silver. 
It  has  frequently  been  asserted  that  the  Templars  were  privy  to  some  sort  of  secret 
concerning  the  origins  of  Christianity.  It  has  been  said  that  they  were  Gnostic,  that  they 
were  heretical,  that  they  were  defectors  to  Islam.  It  has  been  declared  that  they  sought  a 
creative  unity  between  bloods,  races  and  religions  a  systematic  policy  of  fusion  between 
Islamic,  Christian  and  Judaic  thought. 

And  again  and  again  it  is  maintained,  as  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach 
maintained  nearly  eight  centuries  ago,  that  the  Templars  were  guardians 
of  the  Holy 

Grail,  whatever  the  Holy  Grail  might  be. 

The  claims  are  often  ridiculous.  At  the  same  time  there  are  unquestionably  mysteries 
associated  with'  the  Templars  and,  we  became  convinced,  secrets  of  some  kind  as  well. 
It  was  clear  that  some  of  these  secrets  pertained  to  what  is  now  called  'esoterica'. 
Symbolic  carvings  in  Templar  preceptories,  for  instance,  suggest  that  some  officials  in  the 
Order's  hierarchy  were  conversant  with  such  disciplines  as  astrology,  alchemy,  sacred 
geometry  and  numerology,  as  well,  of  course,  as  astronomy  which,  in  the  twelfth  and 
thirteenth  centuries,  was  inseparable  from  astrology,  and  every  bit  as  'esoteric'. 
But  it  was  neither  the  extravagant  claims  nor  the  esoteric  residues 


69 


that  intrigued  us.  On  the  contrary,  we  found  ourselves  fascinated  by 

something  much  more  mundane,  much  more  prosaic  the  welter  of 

contradictions,  improbabilities,  inconsistencies  and  apparent 

"smoke-screens'  in  the  accepted  history.  Esoteric  secrets  the 

Templars  may  well  have  had.  But  something  else  about  them  was  being  concealed  as 

well  something  rooted  in  the  religious  and  political  currents  of  their  epoch.  It  was  on  this 

level  that  we  undertook  most  of  our  investigation. 

We  began  with  the  end  of  the  story,  the  fall  of  the  Order  and  the  charges  levelled  against 

it.  Many  books  have  been  written  exploring  and  evaluating  the  possible  truth  of  these 

charges;  and  from  the  evidence  we,  like  most  researchers,  concluded  there  seems  to 

have  been  some  basis  for  them. 

Subjected  to  interrogation  by  the  Inquisition,  for  example,  a  number  of  knights  referred  to 

something  called  "Baphomet'  too  many,  and  in  too  many  different  places,  for  Baphomet  to 

be  the  invention  of  a  single  individual  or  even  a  single  preceptory.  At  the  same  time,  there 

is  no  indication  of  who  or  what  Baphomet  might  have  been,  what  he  or  it  represented,  why 

he  or  it  should  have  had  any  special  significance.  It  would  appear  that  Baphomet  was 

regarded  with  reverence,  a  reverence  perhaps  tantamount  to  idolatry.  In  some  instances 

the  name  is  associated  with  the  gargoyle-like,  demonic  sculptures  found  in  various 

preceptories.  On  other  occasions  Baphomet  seems  to  be  associated  with  an  apparition  of 

a  bearded  head.  Despite  the  claims  of  certain  older  historians,  it  seems  clear  that 

Baphomet  was  not  a  corruption  of  the  name  Muhammad.  On  the  other  hand,  it  might 

have  been  a  corruption  of  the  Arabic  abufihamet,  pronounced  in  Moorish  Spanish  as 

bufihimat. 

This  means  "Father  of  Understanding'  or  "Father  of  Wisdom',  and 

'father'  in  Arabic  is  also  taken  to  imply  'source'. If  this  is 

indeed  the  origin  of  Baphomet,  it  would  therefore  refer  presumably  to 

some  supernatural  or  divine  principle.  But  what  might  have 

differentiated 

Baphomet  from  any  other  supernatural  or  divine  principle  remains  unclear. 

If  Baphomet  was  simply  God  or  Allah,  why  did  the  Templars  bother  to 

re-christen  Him?  And  if  Baphomet  was  not  God  or  Allah,  who  or  what  was 

he? 

In  any  case,  we  found  indisputable  evidence  for  the  charge  of  secret  ceremonies  involving 

a  head  of  some  kind. 


70 


Indeed  the  existence  of  such  a  head  proved  to  be  one  of  the  dominant 

themes  running  through  the  Inquisition  records.  As  with  Baphomet,  however,  the 

significance  of  the  head  remains  obscure.  It  may  perhaps  pertain  to  alchemy. 

In  the  alchemical  process  there  was  a  phase  called  the  "Caput  Mortuum' 

or  "Dead  Head'  the  "Nigredo'  or  "Blackening'  which  was  said  to  occur 

before  the  precipitation  of  the  Philosopher's  Stone.  According  to 

other  accounts,  however,  the  head  was  that  of  Hugues  de  Payen,  the 

Order's  founder  and  first 

Grand  Master;  and  it  is  suggestive  that  Hugues's  shield  consisted  of  three  black  heads  on 

a  gold  field. 

The  head  may  also  be  connected  with  the  famous  Turin  Shroud,  which 

seems  to  have  been  in  the  possession  of  the  Templars  between  1204  and 

1307,  and  which,  if  folded,  would  have  appeared  as  nothing  more  than  a 

head.  Indeed,  at  the  Templar  preceptory  of  Templecombe  in  Somerset  a 

reproduction  of  a  head  was  found  which  bears  a  striking  resemblance  to 

that  on  the  Turin 

Shroud.  At  the  same  time  recent  speculation  had  linked  the  head,  at 

least  tentatively,  with  the  severed  head  of  John  the  Baptist;  and 

certain  writers  have  suggested  that  the  Templars  were  "infected'  with 

the  johannite  or 

Mandaean  heresy  which  denounced  Jesus  as  a  'false  prophet'  and  acknowledged  John 

as  the  true  Messiah.  In  the  course  of  their  activities  in  the  Middle  East  the  Templars 

undoubtedly  established  contact  with  johannite  sects,  and  the  possibility  of  Johannite 

tendencies  in  the  Order  is  not  altogether  unlikely.  But  one  cannot  say  that  such 

tendencies  obtained  for  the  Order  as  a  whole,  nor  that  they  were  a  matter  of  official  policy. 

During  the  interrogations  following  the  arrests  in  1307,  a  head  also  figured  in  two  other 

connections.  According  to  the  Inquisition  records,  among  the  confiscated  goods  of  the 

Paris  preceptory  a  reliquary  in  the  shape  of  a  woman's  head  was  found.  It  was  hinged  on 

top,  and  contained  what  appeared  to  have  been  relics  of  a  peculiar  kind.  It  is  described  as 

follows: 

a  great  head  of  gilded  silver,  most  beautiful,  and  constituting  the 

image  of  a  woman.  Inside  were  two  head  bones  wrapped  in  a  cloth  of 

white  linen,  with  another  red  cloth  around  it.  A  label  was  attached, 


71 


on  which  was  written  the  legend  CAPUT  LVIIIm.  The  bones  inside  were 

those  of  a  rather  small  woman. z 

A  curious  relic  especially  for  a  rigidly  monastic,  military  institution 

like  the  Templars.  Yet  a  knight  under  interrogation,  when  confronted 

with  this  feminine  head,  declared  it  had  no  relation  to  the  bearded 

male  head  used  in  the  Order's  rituals.  Caput  LVIIIm  -"Head  58m' 

remains  a  baffling  enigma.  But  it  is  worth  noting  that  the  'm'  may  not 

be  an  'm'  at  all,  but  U,  the  astrological  symbol  for  Virgo  .z' 

The  head  figures  again  in  another  mysterious  story  traditionally  linked  with  the  Templars. 

It  is  worth  quoting  in  one  of  its  several  variants: 

A  great  lady  of  Maraclea  was  loved  by  a  Templar,  a  Lord  of  Sidon;  but 

she  died  in  her  youth,  and  on  the  night  of  her  burial,  this  wicked 

lover  crept  to  the  grave,  dug  up  her  body  and  violated  it.  Then  a 

voice  from  the  void  bade  him  return  in  nine  months  time  for  he  would 

find  a  son.  He  obeyed  the  injunction  and  at  the  appointed  time  he 

opened  the  grave  again  and  found  a  head  on  the  leg  bones  of  the 

skeleton  (skull  and  crossbones).  The  same  voice  bade  him'  guard  it 

well,  for  it  would  be  the  giver  of  all  good  things',  and  so  he  carried 

it  away  with  him.  It  became  his  protecting  genius,  and  he  was  able  to 

defeat  his  enemies  by  merely  showing  them  the  magic  head.  In  due 

course,  it  passed  into  the  possession  of  the  Order  .z2 

This  grisly  narrative  can  be  traced  at  least  as  far  back  as  one  Walter 

Map,  writing  in  the  late  twelfth  century.  But  neither  he  nor  another 

writer,  who  recounts  the  same  tale  nearly  a  century  later,  specifies 

that  the  necrophiliac  rapist  was  a  Templar. Z3  Nevertheless,  by  1307  the 

story  had  become  closely  associated  with  the  Order.  It  is  mentioned 

repeatedly  in  the 

Inquisition's  records,  and  at  least  two  knights  under  interrogation  confessed  their 

familiarity  with  it.  In  subsequent  accounts,  like  the  one  quoted  above,  the  rapist  himself  is 

identified  as  a  Templar,  and  he  remains  so  in  the  versions  preserved  by  Freemasonry  - 

which  adopted  the  skull  and  crossbones,  and  often  employed  it  as  a  device  on 

tombstones. 

In  part  the  tale  might  almost  seem  to  be  a  grotesque  travesty  of  the 


72 


Immaculate  Conception.  In  part  it  would  seem  to  be  a  garbled  symbolic 

account  of  some  initiation  rite,  some  ritual  involving  a  figurative 

death  and  resurrection.  One  chronicler  cites  the  name  of  the  woman  in 

the  story  Yse,  which  would  seem  quite  clearly  to  derive  from  Isis.  And 

certainly  the  tale  evokes  echoes  of  the  mysteries  associated  with  Isis, 

as  well  as  those  of  Tammuz  or  Adonis,  whose  head  was  flung  into  the 

sea,  and  of  Orpheus,  whose  head  was  flung  into  the  river  of  the  Milky 

Way.  The  magical  properties  of  the  head  also  evoke  the  head  of  Bran 

the 

Blessed  in  Celtic  mythology  and  in  the  Mabinogion.  And  it  is  Bran's  mystical  cauldron  that 

numerous  writers  have  sought  to  identify  as  the  pagan  precursor  of  the  Holy  Grail. 

Whatever  significance  might  be  ascribed  to  the  'cult  of  the  head', 

the 

Inquisition  clearly  believed  it  to  be  important.  In  a  list  of  charges  drawn  up  on  August  12th, 

1308,  there  is  the  following: 

Item,  that  in  each  province  they  had  idols,  namely  heads...  Item,  that  they  adored  these 

idols  ..  . 

Item,  that  they  said  that  the  head  could  save  them.  Item,  that  lit 

could]  make  riches  ..  .  Item,  that  it  made  the  trees  flower.  Item, 

that  it  made  the  land  germinate.  Item,  that  they  surrounded  or  touched 

each  head  of  the  aforesaid  idols  with  small  cords,  which  they  wore 

around  themselves  next  to  the  shirt  or  the  flesh  .24 

The  cord  mentioned  in  the  last  item  is  reminiscent  of  the  Cathars,  who  were  also  alleged 

to  have  worn  a  sacred  cord  of  some  kind.  But  most  striking  in  the  list  is  the  head's 

purported  capacity  to  engender  riches,  make  trees  flower  and  bring  fertility  to  the  land. 

These  properties  coincide  remarkably  with  those  ascribed  in  the  romances  to  the  Holy 

Grail. 

Of  all  the  charges  levelled  against  the  Templars,  the  most  serious  were  those  of 

blasphemy  and  heresy  of  denying,  trampling  and  spitting  on  the  cross.  It  is  not  clear 

precisely  what  this  alleged  ritual  was  intended  to  signify  -what,  in  other  words,  the 

Templars  were  actually  repudiating.  Were  they  repudiating  Christ?  Or  were  they  simply 

repudiating  the  Crucifixion? 

And  whatever  they  repudiated,  what  exactly  did  they  extol  in  its  stead? 


73 


No  one  has  satisfactorily  answered  these  questions,  but  it  seems  clear 

that  a  repudiation  of  some  sort  did  occur,  and  was  an  integral 

principle  of  the 

Order.  One  knight,  for  example,  testified  that  on  his  induction  into 

the 

Order  he  was  told,  "You  believe  wrongly,  because  he  [Christ]  is  indeed 

a  false  prophet.  Believe  only  in  God  in  heaven,  and  not  in  him."zs 

Another 

Templar  declared  that  he  was  told,  "Do  not  believe  that  the  man  Jesus 

whom  the  Jews  crucified  in  Outremer  is  God  and  that  he  can  save  you."zs 

A  third  knight  similarly  claimed  he  was  instructed  not  to  believe  in 

Christ,  a  false  prophet,  but  only  in  a  "higher  God'.  He  was  then  shown 

a  crucifix  and  told, 

"Set  not  much  faith  in  this,  for  it  is  too  young." 

Such  accounts  are  frequent  and  consistent  enough  to  lend  credence  to 

the  charge.  They  are  also  relatively  bland;  and  if  the  Inquisition 

desired  to  concoct  evidence,  it  could  have  devised  something  far  more 

dramatic,  more  incriminating,  more  damning.  There  thus  seems  little 

doubt  that  the 

Templars'  attitude  towards  Jesus  did  not  concur  with  that  of  Catholic  orthodoxy,  but  it  is 

uncertain  precisely  what  the  Order's  attitude  was. 

In  any  case,  there  is  evidence  that  the  ritual  ascribed  to  the  Templars 

-trampling  and  spitting  on  the  cross  was  in  the  air  at  least  half  a  century 
before  1307.   Its  context  is  confusing,  but  it  is  mentioned  in  connection  with  the 

Sixth  Crusade,  which  occurred  in  1249.28 

Knights  Templar  The  Hidden  Side 

If  the  end  of  the  Knights  Templar  was  fraught  with  baffling  enigmas, 

the  foundation  and  early  history  of  the  Order  seemed  to  us  to  be  even 

more  so.  We  were  already  plagued  by  a  number  of  inconsistencies  and 

improbabilities.  Nine  knights,  nine  "poor'  knights,  appeared  as  if 

from  nowhere  and  among  all  the  other  crusaders  swarming  about  the  Holy 

Land  promptly  had  the  king's  quarters  turned  over  to  them!  Nine  "poor' 

knights  without  admit  ting  any  new  recruits  to  their  ranks  presumed, 

all  by  themselves,  to  defend  the  highways  of  Palestine.  And  there  was 

no  record  at  all  of  them  actually  doing  any  thing,  not  even  from  Fulk 

de  Chartres,  the  king's  official  chronicler,  who  must  surely  have  known 


74 


about  Map  5Jerusalem  the  Temple  and  the  Area  of  Mount  Sion  in  the 

Mid-Twelfth 

Century 

BRh'ACHOFIf199 

I  EPER  HOSPII'AI- 

Chorch4ih'HolyS~lchr~  FHE  TEMPI  .F 

,i,  o  m  "~4  C 

S,  Man  of,h,  Lame._ 

S'Mary  heGr  S,  Man  d  ih,  F.<l'm~n 

l~  Bhp  Moun~  1 1  Ulno  god  Bwhun 

Sl(  INGA'II'F. 

AHE'AOWNLD  Ny' 

F  Ht:  l't)hFPLARS 

NOTE  DAME  Dt:  SION  (C-le  and  Tomb  ~"l  D-id) 

"loBahleham 


75 


them!  How,  we  wondered,  could  their  activities,  their  move  into  the 

royal  premises,  for  instance,  have  escaped  Fulk's  notice?  It  would  seem  incredible,  yet 

the  chronicler  says  nothing.  No  one  says  anything,  in  fact,  until  Guillaume  de  Tyre,  a 

good  half  century  later.  What  could  we  conclude  from  this?  That  the  knights  were  not 

engaged  in  the  laudable  public  service  ascribed  to  them?  That  they  were  perhaps 

involved  instead  in  some  more  clandestine  activity,  of  which  not  even  the  official  chronicler 

was  aware? 

Or  that  the  chronicler  himself  was  muzzled?  The  latter  would  seem  to  be  the  most  likely 

explanation.  For  the  knights  were  soon  joined  by  two  most  illustrious  noblemen, 

noblemen  whose  presence  could  not  have  gone  unnoticed. 

According  to  Guillaume  de  Tyre,  the  Order  of  the  Temple  was  established 

in  1118,  originally  numbered  nine  knights  and  admitted  no  new  recruits 

for  nine  years.  It  is  clearly  on  record,  however,  that  the  count  of 

Anjou  -father  of  Geoffrey  Plantagenet  joined  the  Order  in  1120,  only 

two  years  after  its  supposed  foundation.  And  in  1 124  the  count  of 

Champagne,  one  of  the  wealthiest  lords  in  Europe,  did  likewise.  If 

Guillaume  de  Tyre  is  correct,  there  should  have  been  no  new  members 

until  1127;  but  by  11 26  the 

Templars  had  in  fact  admitted  four  new  members  to  their  ranks."  Is 

Guillaume  wrong,  then,  in  saying  that  no  new  members  were  admitted  for 

nine  years?  Or  is  he  perhaps  correct  in  that  assertion,  but  wrong  in 

the  date  he  attributes  to  the  Order's  foundation?  If  the  count  of 

Anjou  became  a 

Templar  in  1 1 20,  and  if  the  Order  admitted  no  new  members  for  nine  years  after  its 

foundation,  its  foundation  would  date  not  from  1118,  but  at  the  latest,  from  1111  or  1 1 1 2. 

Indeed  there  is  very  persuasive  evidence  for  this  conclusion.  In  1 1 14  the  count  of 

Champagne  was  preparing  for  a  journey  to  the  Holy  Land. 

Shortly  before  his  departure,  he  received  a  letter  from  the  bishop  of 

Chartres.  At  one  point,  the  bishop  wrote,  "We  have  heard  that ..  . 

before  leaving  for 

Jerusalem  you  made  a  vow  to  join  "la  mi  lice  du  Christ",  that  you  wish 

to  enrol  in  this  evangelical  soldiery.  '3  "La  mi  lice  du  Christ'  was 

the  name  by  which  the  Templars  were  originally  known,  and  the  name  by 

which  Saint 

Bernard  alludes  to  them.  In  the  context  of  the  bishop's  letter  the 


76 


appellation  cannot  possibly  refer  to  any  other  institution.  It  cannot 

mean,  for  example,  that  the  count  of  Champagne  simply  decided  to  become  a  crusader, 

because  the  bishop  goes  on  to  speak  of  a  vow  of  chastity  which  his  decision  has  entailed. 

Such  a  vow  would  hardly  have  been  required  of  an  ordinary  crusader.  From  the  bishop  of 

Chartres's  letter,  then,  it  is  clear  that  the  Templars  already  existed,  or  had  at  least  been 

planned,  as  early  as  1114,  four  years  before  the  date  generally  accepted;  and  that  as 

early  as  1 1 14,  the  count  of  Champagne  was  already  intending  to  join  their  ranks  -which  he 

eventually  did  a  decade  later.  One  historian  who  noted  this  letter  drew  the  rather  curious 

conclusion  that  the  bishop  cannot  have  meant  what  he  said."  He  could  not  have  meant  to 

refer  to  the  Templars,  the  historian  in  question  argues,  because  the  Templars  were  not 

founded  until  four  years  later  in  1 1 18.  Or  perhaps  the  bishop  did  not  know  the  year  of  Our 

Lord  in  which  he  was  writing?  But  the  bishop  died  in  1115.  How,  in  1114,  could  he 

'mistakenly'  refer  to  something  which  did  not  yet  exist? 

There  is  only  one  possible,  and  very  obvious,  answer  to  the  question  that  it  is  not  the 

bishop  who  is  wrong,  but  Guillaume  de  Tyre,  as  well  as  all  subsequent  historians  who 

insist  on  regarding  Guillaume  as  the  unimpeachable  voice  of  authority. 

In  itself  an  earlier  foundation  date  for  the  Order  of  the  Temple  need 

not  necessarily  be  suspicious.  But  there  are  other  circumstances  and 

singular  coincidences  which  decidedly  are.  At  least  three  of  the  nine 

founding  knights,  including  Hugues  de  Payen,  seem  to  have  come  from 

adjacent  regions,  to  have  had  family  ties,  to  have  known  each  other 

previously  and  to  have  been  vassals  of  the  same  lord.  This  lord  was 

the  count  of 

Champagne,  to  whom  the  bishop  of  Chartres  addressed  his  letter  in  1114  and  who 

became  a  Templar  in  1 1 24,  pledging  obedience  to  his  own  vassal!  In  1 1 1 5  the  count  of 

Champagne  donated  the  land  on  which  Saint  Bernard,  patron  of  the  Templars,  built  the 

famous  Abbey  of  Clairvaux;  and  one  of  the  nine  founding  knights,  Andre  de  Montbard, 

was  Saint  Bernard's  uncle. 

In  Troyes,  moreover,  the  court  of  the  count  of  Champagne,  an 

influential  school  of  Cabalistic  and  esoteric  studies  had  flourished 

since  1 070. "2  At  the  Council  of  Troyes  in  1 1 28  the  Templars  were 


77 


officially  incorporated.  For  the  next  two  centuries  Troyes  remained  a 

strategic  centre  for  the  Order;  and  even  today  there  is  a  wooded 

expanse  adjacent  to  the  city  called  the  Foret  du  Temple.  And  it  was 

from  Troyes,  court  of  the  count  of 

Champagne,  that  one  of  the  earliest  Grail  romances  issued  quite  possibly  the  earliest, 

composed  by  Chretien  de  Troyes. 

Amid  this  welter  of  data,  we  could  begin  to  see  a  tenuous  web  of 

connections  a  pattern  that  seemed  more  than  mere  coincidence.  If  such 

a  pattern  did  exist,  it  would  certainly  support  our  suspicion  that 

the 

Templars  were  involved  in  some  clandestine  activity.  Nevertheless,  we 

could  only  speculate  as  to  what  that  activity  might  have  been.  One 

basis  for  our  speculation  was  the  specific  site  of  the  knights' 

domicile  the  wing  of  the  royal  palace,  the  Temple  Mount,  so 

inexplicably  conferred  upon  them.  In 

A.D.  70  the  Temple  which  then  stood  there  was  sacked  by  Roman  legions 

under 

Titus.  Its  treasure  was  plundered  and  brought  to  Rome,  then  plundered  again  and 

perhaps  brought  to  the  Pyrenees.  But  what  if  there  were  something  else  in  the  Temple  as 

well  something  even  more  important  than  the  treasure  pillaged  by  the  Romans?  It  is 

certainly  possible  that  the  Temple's  priests,  confronted  by  an  advancing  phalanx  of 

centurions,  would  have  left  to  the  looters  the  booty  they  expected  to  find.  And  if  there 

were  something  else,  it  might  well  be  concealed  somewhere  near  by.  Beneath  the 

Temple,  for  instance. 

Among  the  Dead  Sea  Scrolls  found  at  QumrAan,  there  is  one  now  known  as 

the  "Copper  Scroll'.  This  scroll,  deciphered  at  Manchester  University 

in  1955-6,  makes  explicit  references  to  great  quantities  of  bullion, 

sacred  vessels,  additional  unspecified  material  and  'treasure'  of  an 

indeterminate  kind.  It  cites  twenty-four  different  hoards  buried 

beneath  the  Temple  itself  .33 

In  the  mid-twelfth  century  a  pilgrim  to  the  Holy  Land,  one  Johann  von 

Wurzburg,  wrote  of  a  visit  to  the  so-called  "Stables  of  Solomon'.  These  stables,  situated 

directly  beneath  the  Temple  itself,  are  still  visible. 

They  were  large  enough,  Johann  reported,  to  hold  two  thousand  horses;  and  it  was  in 

these  stables  that  the  Templars  quartered  their  mounts. 

According  to  at  least  one  other  historian,  the  Templars  were  using 

these  stables  for  their  horses  as  early  as  1 124,  when  they  still 


78 


supposedly  numbered  only  nine.  It  would  thus  seem  likely  that  the 

fledgling  Order,  almost  immediately  after  its  inception,  undertook  excavations  beneath  the 

Temple. 

Such  excavations  might  well  imply  that  the  knights  were  actively 

looking  for  something.  It  might  even  imply  that  they  were  deliberately 

sent  to  the 

Holy  Land,  with  the  express  commission  of  finding  something.  If  this  supposition  is  valid, 

it  would  explain  a  number  of  anomalies  -their  installation  in  the  royal  palace,  for  example, 

and  the  silence  of  the  chronicler.  But  if  they  were  sent  to  Palestine,  who  sent  them? 

In  1 104  the  count  of  Champagne  had  met  in  conclave  with  certain 

high-ranking  nobles,  at  least  one  of  whom  had  just  returned  from 

Jerusalem."  Among  those  present  at  this  conclave  were  representatives  of  certain 

families  r.  Brienne,  Joinville  and  Chaumont  who,  we  later  discovered,  figured  significantly 

in  our  story.  Also  present  was  the  liege  lord  of  Andre  de  Montbard,  Andre  being  one  of 

the  co-founders  of  the  Temple  and  Saint  Bernard's  uncle. 

Shortly  after  the  conclave,  the  count  of  Champagne  departed  for  the 

Holy 

Land  himself  and  remained  there  for  four  years,  returning  in  1 1 08.35  In 

1 1 14  he  made  a  second  journey  to  Palestine,  intending  to  join  the  mi 

lice  du  Christ',  then  changing  his  mind  and  returning  to  Europe  a  year 

later.  On  his  return,  he  immediately  donated  a  tract  of  land  to  the 

Cistercian  Order,  whose  pre-eminent  spokesman  was  Saint  Bernard.  On 

this  tract  of  land  Saint 

Bernard  built  the  Abbey  of  Clairvaux,  where  he  established  his  own  residence  and  then 

consolidated  the  Cistercian  Order. 

Prior  to  1 1 12  the  Cistercians  were  dangerously  close  to  bankruptcy.  Then,  under  Saint 

Bernard's  guidance,  they  underwent  a  dazzling  change  of  fortune.  Within  the  next  few 

years  half  a  dozen  abbeys  were  established.  By  1 1 53  there  were  more  than  three 

hundred,  of  which  Saint  Bernard  himself  personally  founded  sixty-nine.  This  extraordinary 

growth  directly  parallels  that  of  the  Order  of  the  Temple,  which  was  expanding  in  the  same 

way  during  the  same  years.  And,  as  we  have  said,  one  of  the  co  founders  of  the  Order  of 

the  Temple  was  Saint  Bernard's  uncle,  Andre  de  Montbard. 


79 


It  is  worth  reviewing  this  complicated  sequence  of  events.  In  1 1 04 

the  count  of  Champagne  departed  for  the  Holy  Land  after  meeting  with 

certain  nobles,  one  of  whom  was  connected  with  Andre  de 

Montbard.  In  1112  Andre  de  Montbard's  nephew,  Saint  Bernard,  joined 

the 

Cistercian  Order.  In  1 1 14  the  count  of  Champagne  departed  on  a  second 

journey  to  the  Holy  Land,  intending  to  join  the  Order  of  the  Temple 

which  was  co-founded  by  his  own  vassal  together  with  Andre  de  Montbard, 

and  which,  as  the  bishop  of  Chartres's  letter  attests,  was  already  in 

existence  or  in  process  of  being  established.  In  1 1 1 5  the  count  of 

Champagne  returned  to 

Europe,  having  been  gone  for  less  than  a  year,  and  donated  land  for 

the 

Abbey  of  Clairvaux  whose  abbot  was  Andre  de  Montbard's  nephew.  In  the 

years  that  followed  both  the  Cistercians  and  the  Templars  both  Saint 

Bernard's  order  and  Andre  de  Montbard's  became  immensely  wealthy  and  enjoyed 

phases  of  phenomenal  growth. 

As  we  pondered  this  sequence  of  events,  we  became  increasingly  convinced  that  there 

was  some  pattern  underlying  and  governing  such  an  intricate  web. 

It  certainly  did  not  appear  to  be  random,  nor  wholly  coincidental.  On  the  contrary  we 

seemed  to  be  dealing  with  the  vestiges  of  some  complex  and  ambitious  overall  design,  the 

full  details  of  which  had  been  lost  to  history.  In  order  to  reconstruct  these  details,  we 

developed  a  tentative  hypothesis  a  "scenario',  so  to  speak,  which  might  accommodate  the 

known  facts. 

We  supposed  that  something  was  discovered  in  the  Holy  Land,  either  by  accident  or 

design  something  of  immense  import,  which  aroused  the  interest  of  some  of  Europe's 

most  influential  noblemen.  We  further  supposed  that  this  discovery  involved,  directly  or 

indirectly,  a  great  deal  of  potential  wealth  as  well,  perhaps,  as  something  else,  something 

that  had  to  be  kept  secret,  something  which  could  only  be  divulged  to  a  small  number  of 

high-ranking  lords.  Finally,  we  supposed  that  this  discovery  was  reported  and  discussed 

at  the  conclave  of  1 1 04. 

Immediately  thereafter  the  count  of  Champagne  departed  for  the  Holy 

Land  himself,  perhaps  to  verify  personally  what  he  had  heard,  perhaps 

to  implement  some  course  of  action  the  foundation,  for  example,  of  what 

subsequently  became  the  Order  of  the  Temple.  In  1 1 14,  if  not  before, 

the 


80 


Templars  were  established  with  the  count  of  Champagne  playing  some 

crucial  role,  perhaps  acting  as  guiding  spirit  and  sponsor.  By  1 1 15 

money  was  already  flowing  back  to  Europe  and  into  the  coffers  of  the 

Cistercians,  who,  under  Saint  Bernard  and  from  their  new  position  of 

strength,  endorsed  and  imparted  credibility  to  the  fledgling 

Order  of  the  Temple. 

Under  Bernard  the  Cistercians  attained  a  spiritual  ascendancy  in  Europe. 

Under  Hugues  de  Payen  and  Andre  de  Montbard,  the  Templars  attained  a  military  and 

administrative  ascendancy  in  the  Holy  Land  which  quickly  spread  back  to  Europe.  Behind 

the  growth  of  both  orders  loomed  the  shadowy  presence  of  uncle  and  nephew,  as  well  as 

the  wealth,  influence  and  patronage  of  the  count  of  Champagne.  These  three  individuals 

constitute  a  vital  link.  They  are  like  markers  breaking  the  surface  of  history,  indicating  the 

dim  configurations  of  some  elaborate,  concealed  design. 

If  such  a  design  actually  existed,  it  cannot,  of  course,  be  ascribed  to 

these  three  men  alone.  On  the  contrary,  it  must  have  entailed  a  great 

deal  of  co-operation  from  certain  other  people  and  a  great  deal  of 

meticulous  organisation.  Organisation  is  perhaps  the  key  word;  for  if 

our  hypothesis  was  correct,  it  would  presuppose  a  degree  of 

organisation  amounting  to  an  order  in  itself  a  third  and  secret  order 

behind  the  known  and  documented 

Orders  of  the  Cistercians  and  the  Temple.  Evidence  for  the  existence  for  such  a  third 

order  was  not  long  in  arriving. 

In  the  meantime,  we  devoted  our  attention  to  the  hypothetical  "discovery'  in  the  Holy  Land 

the  speculative  basis  on  which  we  had  established  our  "scenario'.  What  might  have  been 

found  there?  To  what  might  the  Templars,  along  with  Saint  Bernard  and  the  count  of 

Champagne,  have  been  privy?  At  the  end  of  their  history  the  Templars  kept  inviolate  the 

secret  of  their  treasure's  whereabouts  and  nature. 

Not  even  documents  survived.  If  the  treasure  in  question  were  simply 

financial  bullion,  for  example  it  would  not  have  been  necessary  to 

destroy  or  conceal  all  records,  all  rules,  all  archives.  The 

implication  is  that  the  Templars  had  something  else  in  their  custody, 

something  so  precious  that  not  even  torture  would  wring  an  intimation 

of  it  from  their  lips.  Wealth  alone  could  not  have  prompted  such 

absolute  and  unanimous  secrecy.  Whatever  it  was  had  to  do  with  other 


81 


matters,  like  the  Order's  attitude  towards  Jesus. 

On  October  13th,  1307,  all  Templars  throughout  France  were  arrested 

by 

Philippe  le  Bel's  seneschals.  But  that  statement  is  not  quite  true. 

The 

Templars  of  at  least  one  preceptory  slipped  unscathed  through  the  king's  net  the 

preceptory  of  Bezu,  adjacent  to  Rennes-leChateau.  How  and  why  did  they  escape?  To 

answer  that  question,  we  were  compelled  to  investigate  the  Order's  activities  in  the  vicinity 

of  Bezu.  Those  activities  proved  to  have  been  fairly  extensive.  Indeed,  there  were  some 

half  dozen  preceptories  and  other  holdings  in  the  area,  which  covered  some  twenty 

square  miles. 

In  1 153  a  nobleman  of  the  region  a  nobleman  with  Cathar  sympathies 

became  fourth  Grand  Master  of  the  Order  of  the  Temple.  His  name  was 

Bertrand  de  Blanchefort,  and  his  ancestral  home  was  situated  on  a  mountain  peak  a  few 

miles  away  from  both  Bezu  and  Rennes-leChateau. 

Bertrand  de 

Blanchefort,  who  presided  over  the  Order  from  1 153  until  1 170,  was 

probably  the  most  significant  of  all  Templar  Grand  Masters.  Before  his 

regime  the 

Order's  hierarchy  and  administrative  structure  were,  at  best,  nebulous. 

It  was  Bertrand  who  transformed  the  Knights  Templar  into  the  superbly 

efficient,  well-organised  and  magnificently  disciplined  hierarchical 

institution  they  then  became.  It  was  Bertrand  who  launched  their 

involvement  in  high-level  diplomacy  and  international  politics.  It 

was 

Bertrand  who  created  for  them  a  major  sphere  of  interest  in  Europe,  and 

particularly  in  France.  And  according  to  the  evidence  that  survives, 

Bertrand's  mentor  some  historians  even  list  him  as  the  Grand  Master  immediately 

preceding  Bertrand  was  Andre  de  Montbard. 

Within  a  few  years  of  the  Templars'  incorporation,  Bertrand  had  not 

only  joined  their  ranks,  but  also  conferred  on  them  lands  in  the 

environs  of 

Rennes-leChateau  and  Bezu.  And  in  1 156,  under  Bertrand's  regime  as 

Grand 

Master,  the  Order  is  said  to  have  imported  to  the  area  a  contingent 

of 

German-speaking  miners.  These  workers  were  supposedly  subjected  to  a 

rigid,  virtually  military  discipline.  They  were  forbidden  to 

fraternise  in  any  way  with  the  local  population  and  were  kept  strictly 

segregated  from  the  surrounding  community.  A  special  judicial  body, 

'la  Judicature  des 


82 


Allemands',  was  even  created  to  deal  with  legal  technicalities 

pertaining  to  them.  And  their  alleged  task  was  to  work  the  gold  mines 

on  the  slopes  of  the  mountain  at 

Blanchefort  gold  mines  which  had  been  utterly  exhausted  by  the  Romans 

nearly  a  thousand  years  before. -1s 

During  the  seventeenth  century  engineers  were  commissioned  to  investigate  the 

mineralogical  prospects  of  the  area  and  draw  up  detailed  reports.  In  the  course  of  his 

report  one  of  them,  Cesar  d'Arcons,  discussed  the  ruins  he  had  found,  remains  of  the 

German  workers'  activity.  On  the  basis  of  his  research,  he  declared  that  the  German 

workers  did  not  seem  to  have  been  engaged  in  mining. 3'  In  what,  then,  were  they 

engaged?  Cesar  d'Arcons  was  unsure  smelting  perhaps,  melting  something  down, 

constructing  something  out  of  metal,  perhaps  even  excavating  a  subterranean  crypt  of 

some  sort  and  creating  a  species  of  depository. 

Whatever  the  answer  to  this  enigma,  there  had  been  a  Templar  presence  in  the  vicinity  of 

Rennes-leChateau  since  at  least  the  mid-twelfth  century. 

By  1285  there  was  a  major  preceptory  a  few  miles  from  Bezu,  at 

Campagnesur-Aude.  Yet  near  the  end  of  the  thirteenth  century,  Pierre 

de  Voisins,  lord  of  Bezu  and  Rennes-leChateau,  invited  a  separate 

detachment  of 

Templars  to  the  area,  a  special  detachment  from  the  Aragonese  province 

of 

Roussillon.38  This  fresh  detachment  established  itself  on  the  summit  of  the  mountain  of 

Bezu,  erecting  a  lookout  post  and  a  chapel. 

Ostensibly,  the 

Roussillon  Templars  had  been  invited  to  Bezu  to  maintain  the  security 

of  the  region  and  protect  the  pilgrim  route  which  ran  through  the 

valley  to 

Santiago  de  Compastela  in  Spain.  But  it  is  unclear  why  these  extra  knights  should  have 

been  required.  In  the  first  place  they  cannot  have  been  very  numerous  not  enough  to 

make  a  significant  difference.  In  the  second  place  there  were  already  Templars  in  the 

neighbourhood. 

Finally,  Pierre  de 

Voisins  had  troops  of  his  own,  who,  together  with  the  Templars  already 

there,  could  guarantee  the  safety  of  the  environs.  Why,  then,  did 

the 

Roussillon  Templars  come  to  Bezu?  According  to  local  tradition,  they  came  to  spy.  And 

to  exploit  or  bury  or  guard  a  treasure  of  some  sort. 

Whatever  their  mysterious  mission,  they  obviously  enjoyed  some  kind  of 

special  immunity.  Alone  of  all  Templars  in  France,  they  were  left 


83 


unmolested  by  Philippe  le  Bel's  seneschals  on  October  13th,  1307.  On 

that  fateful  day  the  commander  of  the  Templar  contingent  at  Bezu  was  a 

Seigneur  de  Goth  .39  And  before  taking  the  name  of  Pope  Clement  V,  the 

archbishop  of  Bordeaux  King 

Philippe's  vacillating  pawn  was  Bertrand  de  Goth.  Moreover,  the  new 

pontiff's  mother  was  Ida  de  Blanchefort,  of  the  same  family  as  Bertrand 

de 

Blanchefort.  Was  the  pope  then  privy  to  some  secret  entrusted  to  the 

custody  of  his  family  a  secret  which  remained  in  the  Blanchefort  family 

until  the  eighteenth  century,  when  the  Abbe  Antoine  Bigou,  cure  of 

Rennes-leChateau  and  confessor  to  Marie  de  Blanchefort,  composed  the 

parchments  found  by 

Sauniere?  If  this  were  the  case,  the  pope  might  well  have  extended  some  sort  of 

immunity  to  his  relative  commanding  the  Templars  at  Bezu. 

The  history  of  the  Templars  near  Rennes-leChateau  was  clearly  as  fraught  with  perplexing 

enigmas  as  the  history  of  the  Order  in  general.  Indeed,  there  were  a  number  of  factors 

the  role  of  Bertrand  de  Blanchefort,  for  example  which  seemed  to  constitute  a  discernible 

link  between  the  general  and  the  more  localised  enigmas. 

In  the  meantime,  however,  we  were  confronted  with  a  daunting  array  of  coincidences 

coincidences  too  numerous  to  be  truly  coincidental.  Were  we  in  fact  dealing  with  a 

calculated  pattern?  If  so,  the  obvious  question  was  who  devised  it,  for  patterns  of  such 

intricacy  do  not  devise  themselves. 

All  the  evidence  available  to  us  pointed  to  meticulous  planning  and 

careful  organisation  so  much  so  that  increasingly  we  suspected  there 

must  be  a  specific  group  of  individuals,  perhaps  comprising  an  order  of 

some  sort,  working  assiduously  behind  the  scenes.  We  did  not  have  to 

seek  confirmation  for  the  existence  of  such  an  order.  The  confirmation 


84 


thrust  itself  upon  us.  4  Secret  Documents 

Confirmation  of  a  third  order  an  order  behind  both  the  Templars  and 

the 

Cistercians  thrust  itself  upon  us.  At  first,  however,  we  could  not  take  it  seriously.  It 

seemed  to  issue  from  too  unreliable,  too  vague  and  nebulous  a  source.  Until  we  could 

authenticate  the  veracity  of  this  source,  we  could  not  believe  its  claims. 

In  1956  a  series  of  hooks,  articles,  pamphlets  and  other  documents 

relating  to  Berenger  Sauniere  and  the  enigma  of  Rennes-leChateau  began 

to  appear  in 

France.  This  material  has  steadily  proliferated,  and  is  now  voluminous. 

Indeed,  it  has  come  to  constitute  the  basis  for  a  veritable  'industry'.  And  its  sheer  quantity, 

as  well  as  the  effort  and  resources  involved  in  producing  and  disseminating  it,  implicitly 

attest  to  something  of  immense  but  as  yet  unexplained  import. 

Not  surprisingly,  the  affair  has  served  to  whet  the  appetites  of  numerous  independent 

researchers  like  ourselves,  whose  works  have  added  to  the  corpus  of  material  available. 

The  original  material,  however,  seems  to  have  issued  from  a  single  specific  source. 

Someone  clearly  has  a  vested  interest  in  'promoting'  Rennes-leChateau,  in  drawing  public 

attention  to  the  story,  in  generating  publicity  and  further  investigation.  Whatever  else  it 

might  be,  this  vested  interest  does  not  appear  to  be  financial.  On  the  contrary,  it  would 

appear  to  be  more  in  the  order  of  propaganda  propaganda  which  establishes  credibility  for 

something.  And  whoever  the  individuals  responsible  for  this  propaganda  may  be,  they 

have  endeavoured  to  focus  spotlights  on  certain  issues  while  keeping  themselves 

scrupulously  in  the  shadows. 

Since  1956  a  quantity  of  relevant  material  has  been  deliberately  and  systematically 

'leaked',  in  a  piecemeal  fashion,  fragment  by  fragment. 

Most  of  these  fragments  purport  to  issue,  implicitly  or  explicitly, 


85 


from  some  'privileged'  or  "inside'  source.  Most  contain  additional 

information,  which  supplements  what  was  known  before  and  thus  contributes  to  the 

overall  jigsaw.  Neither  the  import  nor  the  meaning  of  the  overall  jigsaw  has  yet  been 

made  clear,  however.  Instead,  every  new  snippet  of  information  has  done  more  to 

intensify  than  to  dispel  the  mystery.  The  result  has  been  an  ever-proliferating  network  of 

seductive  allusions,  provocative  hints,  suggestive  cross-references  and  connections.  In 

confronting  the  welter  of  data  now  available,  the  reader  may  well  feel  he  is  being  toyed 

with,  or  being  ingeniously  and  skilfully  led  from  conclusion  to  conclusion  by  successive 

carrots  dangled  before  his  nose.  And  underlying  it  all  is  the  constant,  pervasive  intimation 

of  a  secret  a  secret  of  monumental  and  explosive  proportions. 

The  material  disseminated  since  1956  has  taken  a  number  of  forms.  Some 

of  it  has  appeared  in  popular,  even  best-selling  books,  more  or  less 

sensational,  more  or  less  cryptically  teasing.  Thus,  for  example, 

Gerard  de 

Sede  has  produced  a  sequence  of  works  on  such  apparently  divergent 

topics  as  the  Cathars,  the  Templars,  the  Merovingian  dynasty,  the 

Rose-Croix, 

Sauniere  and  Rennes-leChateau.  In  these  works,  M.  de  Sede  is  often  arch,  coy, 

deliberately  mystifying  and  coquettishly  evasive.  His  tone  implies  constantly  that  he 

knows  more  than  he  is  saying  perhaps  a  device  for  concealing  that  he  does  not  know  as 

much  as  he  pretends.  But  his  books  contain  enough  verifiable  details  to  forge  a  link 

between  their  respective  themes.  Whatever  else  one  may  think  of  M.  de  Sede,  he 

effectively  establishes  that  the  diverse  subjects  to  which  he  addresses  himself  somehow 

overlap  and  are  interconnected. 

On  the  other  hand,  we  could  not  but  suspect  that  M.  de  Sede's  work  drew 

heavily  on  information  provided  by  an  informant  and  indeed,  M.  de  Sede 

more  or  less  acknowledges  as  much  himself.  Quite  by  accident,  we 

learned  who  this  informant  was.  In  1 971 ,  when  we  embarked  on  our  first 

BBC  film  on 

Rennes-leChateau,  we  wrote  to  M.  de  Sede's  Paris  publisher  for  certain  visual  material. 

The  photographs  we  requested  were  accordingly  posted  to  us.  Each  of  them,  on  the 

back,  was  stamped  "Plantard'.  At  that  time  the  name  meant  little  enough  to  us.  But  the 

appendix  to  one  of  M. 


86 


de  Sede's  books  consisted  of  an  interview  with  one  Pierre  Plantard. 

And  we  subsequently  obtained  evidence  that  Pierre 

Plantard  had  been  involved  with  certain  of  M.  de  Sede's  works. 

Eventually 

Pierre  Plantard  began  to  emerge  as  one  of  the  dominant  figures  in  our  investigation. 

The  information  disseminated  since  1956  has  not  always  been  contained 

in  as  popular  and  accessible  a  form  as  M.  de  Sede's.  Some  of  it  has 

appeared  in  weighty,  daunting,  even  pedantic  tomes,  diametrically 

opposed  to  M.  de 

Sede's  journalistic  approach.  One  such  work  was  produced  by  Rene 

Descadeillas,  former  Director  of  the  Municipal  Library  of  Carcassonne. 

M.  Descadeillas's  book  is  strenuously  anti-sensational.  Devoted  to  the 

history  of  Rennes-leChateau  and  its  environs,  it  contains  a  plethora  of 

social  and  economic  minutiae  for  example,  the  births,  deaths, 

marriages"  finances,  taxes  and  public  works  between  the  years  1730  and 

1820."  On  the  whole,  it  could  not  possibly  differ  more  from  the 

mass-market  books  of  M.  de  Sede  which  M.  Descadeillas  elsewhere 

subjects  to  scathing  criticism. 2 

In  addition  to  published  books,  including  some  which  have  been  published  privately,  there 

have  been  a  number  of  articles  in  newspapers  and  magazines.  There  have  been 

interviews  with  various  individuals  claiming  to  be  conversant  with  one  or  another  facet  of 

the  mystery.  But  the  most  interesting  rind  important  information  has  not,  for  the  most  part, 

appeared  in  book  form.  Most  of  it  has  surfaced  elsewhere  in  documents  and  pamphlets 

not  intended  for  general  circulation.  Many  of  these  documents  and  pamphlets  have  been 

deposited,  in  limited,  privately  printed  editions,  at  the  Bibliotheque  Nationale  in  Paris. 

They  seem  to  have  been  produced  very  cheaply.  Some,  in  fact,  are  mere  typewritten 

pages,  photo  offset  and  reproduced  on  an  office  duplicator. 

Even  more  than  the  marketed  works,  this  body  of  ephemera  seems  to  have 

issued  from  the  same  source.  By  means  of  cryptic  asides  and  footnotes 

pertaining  to  Sauniere,  Rennes-leChateau, 

Poussin,  the  Merovingian  dynasty  and  other  themes,  each  piece  of  it 

complements,  enlarges  on  and  confirms  the  others.  In  most  cases  the 

ephemera  is  of  uncertain  authorship,  appearing  under  a  variety  of 

transparent,  even  'cute'  pseudonyms  Madeleine  Blancassal,  for 

example, 

Nicolas  Beaucean,  Jean  Delaude  and  Antoine  1"Ermite. 


87 


"Madeleine',  of  course,  refers  to  Marie-Madeleine,  the  Magdalene,  to 

whom  the  church  at  Rennes-leChateau  is  dedicated  and  to  whom  Sauniere 

consecrated  his  tower,  the  Tour  Magdala.  "Blancassal'  is  formed  from 

the  names  of  two  small  rivers  that  converge  near  the  village  of 

Rennes-les-Bains  the  Blanque  and  the  Sals.  "Beaucean'  is  a  variation 

of  "Beauseanf,  the  official  battle-cry  and  battle-standard  of  the 

Knights  Templar.  "Jean 

Delaude'  is  "Jean  de  1"Aude'  or  "John  of  the  Aude',  the  department  in 

which 

Rennes-leChateau  is  situated.  And  "Antoine  VErmite'  is  Saint  Anthony 

the 

Hermit,  whose  statue  adorns  the  church  at  Rennes-leChateau  and  whose  feast  day  is 

January  17th  -the  date  on  Marie  de  Blanchefort's  tombstone  and  the  date  on  which 

Sauniere  suffered  his  fatal  stroke. 

The  work  ascribed  to  Madeleine  Blancassal  is  entitled  Les  Descendants 

merovingiens  et  1'enigme  du  Razes  wisigoth  ("The  Merovingian 

Descendants  and  the  Enigma  of  the  Visigoth  Razes')  Razes  being  the  old 

name  for 

Sauniere's  region.  According  to  its  title  page,  this  work  was 

originally  published  in  German  and  translated  into  French  by  Walter 

Celse-Nazaire  another  pseudonym  compounded  from  Saints  Celse  and 

Nazaire,  to  whom  the  church  at  Rennes-les-Bains  is  dedicated.  And 

according  to  the  title  page,  the  publisher  of  the  work  was  the  Grande 

Loge  Alpina,  the  supreme  Masonic  lodge  of  Switzerland  -the  Swiss 

equivalent  of  Grand  Lodge  in  Britain  or 

Grand  Orient  in  France.  There  is  no  indication  as  to  why  a  modern 

Masonic  lodge  should  display  such  interest  in  the  mystery  surrounding 

an  obscure  nineteenth-century  French  priest  and  the  history  of  his 

parish  a  millennium  and  a  half  ago.  One  of  our  colleagues  and  an 

independent  researcher  both  questioned  Alpina  officials.  They 

disclaimed  all  knowledge  not  only  of  the  work's  publication,  but  also 

of  its  existence.  Yet  an  independent  researcher  claims  personally  to 

have  seen  the  work  on  the  shelves  of 

Alpina's  library. 3  And  subsequently  we  discovered  that  the  Alpina  imprint  appeared  on  two 

other  pamphlets  as  well. 

Of  all  the  privately  published  documents  deposited  in  the 

Bibliotheque 

Nationale,  the  most  important  is  a  compilation  of  papers  entitled 

collectively  Dossiers  secrets  ("Secret  Dossiers').  Catalogued  under 


88 


numberlm'  249,  this  compilation  is  now  on  microfiche.  Until  recently, 

however,  it  comprised  a  thin,  nondescript  volume,  a  species  of  folder  with  stiff  covers 

which  contained  a  loose  assemblage  of  ostensibly  unrelated  items  news  clippings,  letters 

pasted  to  backing-sheets,  pamphlets,  numerous  genealogical  trees  and  the  odd  printed 

page  apparently  extracted  from  the  body  of  some  other  work.  Periodically  some  of  the 

individual  pages  would  be  removed.  At  different  times  other  pages  would  be  freshly 

inserted.  On  certain  pages  additions  and  corrections  would  sometimes  be  made  in  a 

minuscule  longhand.  At  a  later  date,  these  pages  would  be  replaced  by  new  ones,  printed 

and  incorporating  all  previous  emendations. 

The  bulk  of  the  Dossiers,  which  consists  of  genealogical  trees,  is  ascribed  to  one  Henri 

Lobineau,  whose  name  appears  on  the  title  page. 

Two  additional  items  in  the  folder  declare  that  Henri  Lobineau  is  yet 

another  pseudonym  derived  perhaps  from  a  street,  the  Rue  Lobineau, 

which  runs  outside  Saint 

Sulpice  in  Paris  and  that  the  genealogies  are  actually  the  work  of  a  man  named  Leo 

Schidlof,  an  Austrian  historian  and  antiquarian  who  purportedly  lived  in  Switzerland  and 

died  in  1 966.  On  the  basis  of  this  information  we  undertook  to  learn  what  we  could  about 

Leo  Schidlof. 

In  1978  we  managed  to  locate  Leo  Schidlofs  daughter,  who  was  living 

in 

England.  Her  father,  she  said,  was  indeed  Austrian.  He  was  not  a  genealogist,  historian 

or  antiquarian,  however,  but  an  expert  and  dealer  in  miniatures,  who  had  written  two 

works  on  the  subject.  In  1948  he  had  settled  in  London,  where  he  lived  until  his  death  in 

Vienna  in  1966  the  year  and  place  specified  in  the  Dossiers  secrets. 

Miss  Schidlof  vehemently  maintained  that  her  father  had  never  had  any 

interest  in  genealogies,  the  Merovingian  dynasty,  or  mysterious 

goings-on  in  the  south  of  France.  And  yet,  she  continued,  certain 

people  obviously  believed  he  had.  During  the  1960s,  for  example,  he 

had  received  numerous  letters  and  telephone  calls  from  unidentified 

individuals  in  both  Europe  and  the  United  States,  who  wished  to  meet 

with  him  and  discuss  matters  of  which  he  had  no  knowledge  whatever.  On 


89 


his  death  in  1966  there  was  another  barrage  of  messages,  most  of  them 

inquiring  about  his  papers. 

Whatever  the  affair  in  which  Miss  Schidlofs  father  had  become  unwittingly  embroiled,  it 

seemed  to  have  struck  a  sensitive  chord  with  the  American  government.  In  1946  -a 

decade  before  the  Dossiers  secrets  are  said  to  have  been  compiled  Leo  Schidlof  applied 

for  a  visa  to  enter  the  United  States. 

The  application  was  refused,  on  grounds  of  suspected  espionage  or  some 

other  form  of  clandestine  activity.  Eventually  the  matter  seems  to 

have  been  sorted  out,  the  visa  issued  and  Leo  Schidlof  was  admitted  to 

the 

States.  It  may  all  have  been  a  typical  bureaucratic  mix-up.  But 

Miss 

Schidlof  seemed  to  suspect  that  it  was  somehow  connected  with  the  arcane 

preoccupations  so  perplexingly  ascribed  to  her  father. 

Miss  Schidlofs  story  gave  us  pause.  The  refusal  of  an  American  visa 

might  well  have  been  more  than  coincidental,  for  there  were,  among  the 

papers  in  the  Dossiers  secrets,  references  that  linked  the  name  Leo 

Schidlof  with  some  sort  of  international  espionage.  In  the  meantime, 

however,  a  new  pamphlet  had  appeared  in  Paris  which,  during  the  months 

that  followed,  was  confirmed  by  other  sources.  According  to  this 

pamphlet  the  elusive 

Henri  Lobineau  was  not  Leo  Schidlof  after  all,  but  a  French  aristocrat  of  distinguished 

lineage,  Comte  Henri  de  Lenoncourt. 

The  question  of  Lobineau's  real  identity  was  not  the  only  enigma 

associated  with  the  Dossiers  secrets.  There  was  also  an  item  which 

referred  to  "Leo 

Schidlofs  leather  briefcase'.  This  briefcase  supposedly  contained  a  number  of  secret 

papers  relating  to  Rennes-leChateau  between  1600  and  1800. 

Shortly  after  Schidlofs  death,  the  briefcase  was  said  to  have  passed 

into  the  hands  of  a  courier,  a  certain  Fakhar  ul  Islam  who,  in  February 

1967,  was  to  rendezvous  in  East  Germany  with  an  'agent  delegated  by 

Geneva'  and  entrust  it  to  him.  Before  the'  transaction  could  be 

effected,  however, 

Fakhar  ul  Islam  was  reportedly  expelled  from  East  Germany  and  returned 

to 

Paris  "to  await  further  orders'.  On  February  20th,  1967,  his  body  was  found  on  the  railway 

tracks  at  Melun,  having  been  hurled  from  the  Paris-Geneva  express.  The  briefcase  had 

supposedly  vanished. 

We  set  out  to  check  this  lurid  story  as  far  as  we  could.  A  series  of 


90 


articles  in  French  newspapers  of  February  21st  did  confirm  most  of 

it."  A  decapitated  body  had  indeed  been  found  on  the  tracks  at  Melun. 

It  was  identified  as  that  of  a  young  Pakistani  named  Fakhar  ul  Islam.  For  reasons  that 

remained  obscure,  the  dead  man  had  been  expelled  from  East  Germany  and  was 

travelling  from  Paris  to  Geneva  engaged,  it  appeared,  in  some  form  of  espionage. 

According  to  the  newspaper  reports,  the  authorities  suspected  foul  play,  and  the  affair  was 

being  investigated  by  the  DST  (Directory  of  Territorial  Surveillance,  or  CounterEspionage). 

On  the  other  hand,  the  newspapers  made  no  mention  of  Leo  Schidlof,  a 

leather  briefcase  or  anything  else  that  might  connect  the  occurrence 

with  the  mystery  of  RennesleChateau.  As  a  result,  we  found  ourselves 

confronted  with  a  number  of  questions.  On  the  one  hand,  it  was 

possible  that  Fakhar  ul 

Islam's  death  was  linked  with  Rennes-leChateau  that,  the  item  in  the 

Dossiers  secrets  in  fact  drew  upon  "inside  information'  inaccessible  to  the  newspapers. 

On  the  other  hand  the  item  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  might  have  been  deliberate  and 

spurious  mystification.  One  need  only  find  any  unexplained  or  suspicious  death  and 

ascribe  it,  after  the  fact,  to  one's  own  hobby-horse.  But  if  this  were  indeed  the  case,  what 

was  the  purpose  of  the  exercise?  Why  should  someone  deliberately  try  to  create  an 

atmosphere  of  sinister  intrigue  around  Rennes-leChateau?  What  might  be  gained  by  the 

creation  of  such  an  atmosphere?  And  who  might  gain  from  it? 

These  questions  perplexed  us  all  the  more  because  Fakhar  ul  Islam's  death  was  not, 

apparently,  an  isolated  occurrence.  Less  than  a  month  later  another  privately  printed  work 

was  deposited  in  the  Bibliotheque  Nationale. 

It  was  called  Le  Serpent  rouge  ("The  Red  Serpent')  and  dated,  symbolically  and 

significantly  enough,  January  17th.  Its  title  page  ascribed  it  to  three  authors  Pierre 

Feugere,  Louis  Saint-Maxent  and  Gaston  de  Koker. 

Le  Serpent  rouge  is  a  singular  work.  It  contains  one  Merovingian  genealogy  and  two 

maps  of  France  in  Merovingian  times,  along  with  a  cursory  commentary.  It  also  contains  a 

ground  plan  of  Saint  Sulpice  in  Paris,  which  delineates  the  chapels  of  the  church's  various 

saints. 

But  the  bulk  of  the  text  consists  of  thirteen  short  prose  poems  of 


91 


impressive  literary  quality  many  of  them  reminiscent  of  the  work  of 

and  each  corresponds  to  a  sign  of  the  Zodiac  a  zodiac  of  thirteen 

signs,  with  the  thirteenth,  Ophiuchus  or  the  Serpent 

Holder,  inserted  between  Scorpio  and  Sagittarius. 

Narrated  in  the  first  person,  the  thirteen  prose  poems  are  a  type  of 

symbolic:  or  allegorical  pilgrimage,  commencing  with  Aquarius  and 

ending  with  Capricorn  which,  as  the  text  explicitly  states,  presides 

over 

January  1 7th.  In  the  otherwise  cryptic  text  there  are  familiar 

references  -to  the  Blanchefort  family,  to  the  decorations  in  the  church 

at 

Rennes-leChateau,  to  some  of  Sauniere's  inscriptions  there,  to  Poussin 

and  the  painting  of  "Les  Bergers  d'Arcadie',  to  the  motto  on  the  tomb, 

"Et  in 

Arcadia  Ego'.  At  one  point,  there  is  mention  of  a  red  snake,  "cited  in 

the  parchments',  uncoiling  across  the  centuries  an  explicit  allusion, 

it  would  seem,  to  a  bloodline  or  a  lineage.  And  for  the  astrological 

sign  of 

Leo,  there  is  an  enigmatic  paragraph  worth  quoting  in  its  entirety: 

From  she  whom  I  desire  to  liberate,  there  wafts  towards  me  the  fragrance  of  the  perfume 

which  impregnates  the  Sepulchre.  Formerly,  some  named  her: 

Isis,  queen  of  all  sources  benevolent.  COME  UNTO  ME  ALL  YE  WHO 

SUFFER 

AND 

ARE  AFFLICTED,  AND  I  SHALL  GIVE  YE  REST.  To  others,  she  is  MAGDALENE,  of  the 

celebrated  vase  filled  with  healing  balm.  The  initiated  know  her  true  name:  NOTRE 

DAME  DES  CROSS." 

The  implications  of  this  paragraph  are  extremely  interesting.  Isis,  of 

course,  is  the  Egyptian  Mother  Goddess,  patroness  of  mysteries  the 

"White 

Queen'  in  her  benevolent  aspects,  the  "Black  Queen'  in  her  malevolent  ones. 

Numerous  writers,  on  mythology,  anthropology,  psychology,  theology, 

have  traced  the  cult  of  the  Mother  Goddess  from  pagan  times  to  the 

Christian  epoch.  And  according  to  these  writers  she  is  said  to  have 

survived  under 

Christianity  in  the  guise  of  the  Virgin  Mary  the  "Queen  of  Heaven', 

as 

Saint  Bernard  called  her,  a  designation  applied  in  the  Old  Testament  to 

the 

Mother  Goddess  Astarte,  the  Phoenician  equivalent  of  Isis.  But 

according  to  the  text  in  Le  Serpent  rouge,  the  Mother  Goddess  of 

Christianity  would  not  appear  to  be  the  Virgin.  On  the  contrary,  she 

would  appear  to  be  the 


92 


Magdalene  to  whom  the  church  at  Rennes-leChateau  is  dedicated  and  to 

whom  Sauniere  consecrated  his  tower.  Moreover,  the  text  would  seem  to 

imply  that  "Notre 

Dame'  does  not  apply  to  the  Virgin  either.  That  resonant  title 

conferred  on  all  the  great  cathedrals  of  France  would  also  seem  to 

refer  to  the 

Magdalene.  But  why  should  the  Magdalene  be  revered  as  "Our  Lady'  and,  still  more,  as  a 

Mother  Goddess?  Maternity  is  the  last  thing  generally  associated  with  the  Magdalene.  In 

popular  Christian  tradition  she  is  a  prostitute  who  finds  redemption  by  apprenticing  herself 

to  Jesus.  And  she  figures  most  noticeably  in  the  Fourth  Gospel,  where  she  is  the  first 

person  to  behold  Jesus  after  the  Resurrection.  In  consequence  she  is  extolled  as  a  saint, 

especially  in  France  where,  according  to  medieval  legends,  she  is  said  to  have  brought 

the  Holy  Grail.  And  indeed  the  'vase  filled  with  healing  balm'  might  well  be  intended  to 

suggest  the  Grail.  But  to  enshrine  the  Magdalene  in  the  place  usually  reserved  for  the 

Virgin  would  seem,  at  very  least,  to  be  heretical. 

Whatever  their  point,  the  authors  of  Le  Serpent  rouge  -or,  rather,  the  alleged  authors  met 

with  a  fate  as  gruesome  as  that  of  Fakhar  ul  Islam. 

On  March  6th,  1967,  Louis  Saint-Maxent  and  Gaston  de  Koker  were  found  hanged.  And 

the  following  day,  March  7th,  Pierre  Feugere  was  found  hanged  as  well. 

One  might  immediately  assume,  of  course,  that  these  deaths  were  in  some 

way  connected  with  the  composition  and  public  release  of  Le  Serpent 

rouge.  As  in  the  case  of  Fakhar  ul  Islam,  however,  we  could  not 

discount  an  alternative  explanation.  If  one  wished  to  engender  an  aura 

of  sinister  mystery,  it  would  be  easy  enough  to  do.  One  need  only  comb 

the  newspapers  until  one  found  a  suspicious  death  or,  in  this  instance, 

three  suspicious  deaths.  After  the  fact,  one  might  then  append  the 

names  of  the  deceased  to  a  pamphlet  of  one's  own  concoction  and  deposit 

that  pamphlet  in  the 

Bibliotheque  Nationale  with  an  earlier  date  (January  17th)  on  the  title 

page.  It  would  be  virtually  impossible  to  expose  such  a  hoax,  which 

would  certainly  produce  the  desired  intimation  of  foul  play.  But  why 

perpetrate  such  a  hoax  at  all?  Why  should  someone  want  to  invoke  an 

aura  of  violence,  murder  and  intrigue?  Such  a  ploy  would  hardly  deter 


93 


investigators.  On  the  contrary,  it  would  only  further  attract  them. 

If,  on  the  other  hand,  we  were  not  dealing  with  a  hoax,  there  were 

still  a  number  of  baffling  questions.  Were  we  to  believe,  for  example, 

that  the  three  hanged  men  were  suicides  or  victims  of  murder?  Suicide, 

in  the  circumstances,  would  seem  to  make  little  sense  And  murder  would 

not  seem  to  make  much  more.  One  could  understand  three  people  being 

dispatched  lest  they  divulge  certain  explosive  information.  But  in 

this  case  the  information  had  already  been  divulged,  already  deposited 

in  the 

Bibliotheque  Nationale.  Could  the  murders  if  that  was  what  they  were  have  been  a  form 

of  punishment,  of  retribution?  Or  perhaps  a  means  of  precluding  any  subsequent 

indiscretions?  Neither  of  these  explanations  is  satisfactory.  If  one  is  angered  by  the 

disclosure  of  certain  information,  or  if  one  wishes  to  forestall  additional  disclosures,  one 

does  not  attract  attention  to  the  matter  by  committing  a  trio  of  lurid  and  sensational 

murders  unless  one  is  reasonably  confident  that  there  will  be  no  very  assiduous  inquiry. 

Our  own  adventures  in  the  course  of  our  investigation  were  mercifully 

less  dramatic,  but  equally  mystifying.  In  our  research,  for  example, 

we  had  encountered  repeated  references  to  a  work  by  one  Antoine 

VErmite  entitled 

Un  Tresor  merovingien  a  Rennes-leChateau  ("A  Merovingian  Treasure  at 

Rennes-leChateau').  We  endeavoured  to  locate  this  work  and  quickly  found  it  listed  in  the 

Bibliotheque  Nationale  catalogue;  but  it  proved  inordinately  difficult  to  obtain.  Every  day, 

for  a  week,  we  went  to  the  library  and  filled  out  the  requisite  fiche  requesting  the  work.  On 

each  occasion  the  fiche  was  returned  marked  "communique'  indicating  that  the  work  was 

being  used  by  someone  else.  In  itself  this  was  not  necessarily  unusual. 

After  a  fortnight,  however,  it  began  to  become  so  and  exasperating  as  well,  for  we  could 

not  remain  in  Paris  much  longer.  We  sought  the  assistance  of  a  librarian.  He  told  us  the 

book  would  be  'communique'  for  three  months  -an  extremely  unusual  situation  and  that 

we  could  not  order  it  in  advance  of  its  return. 

In  England  not  long  afterwards  a  friend  of  ours  announced  that  she  was 

going  to  Paris  for  a  holiday.  We  accordingly  asked  her  to  try  to 

obtain  the  elusive  work  of  Antoine  TErmite  and  at  least  make  a  note  of 


94 


what  it  contained.  At  the  Bibliotheque  Nationale,  she  requested  the 

book.  Her  fiche  was  not  even  returned.  The  next  day  she  tried  again,  and  with  the  same 

result. 

When  we  were  next  in  Paris,  some  four  months  later,  we  made  another  attempt.  Our  fiche 

was  again  returned  marked  "communique'.  At  this  point,  we  began  to  feel  the  game  had 

been  somewhat  overplayed  and  began  to  play  one  of  our  own.  We  made  our  way  down 

the  catalogue  room,  adjacent  to  the  'stacks'  which  are,  of  course,  inaccessible  to  the 

public.  Finding  an  elderly  and  kindly  looking  library  assistant,  we  assumed  the  role  of 

bumbling  English  tourists  with  Neanderthal  command  of  French.  Asking  his  help,  we 

explained  that  we  were  seeking  a  particular  work  but  were  unable  to  obtain  it,  no  doubt 

because  of  our  imperfect  understanding  of  the  library's  procedures. 

The  genial  old  gentleman  agreed  to  help.  We  gave  him  the  work's  catalogue  number  and 

he  disappeared  into  the  "stacks'.  When  he  emerged,  he  apologised,  saying  there  was 

nothing  he  could  do  the  book  had  been  stolen.  What  was  more,  he  added,  a  compatriot  of 

ours  was  apparently  responsible  for  the  theft  an  Englishwoman.  After  some  badgering,  he 

consented  to  give  us  her  name.  It  was  that  of  our  friend! 

On  returning  to  England  again,  we  sought  the  assistance  of  the  library  service  in  London, 

and  they  agreed  to  look  into  the  bizarre  affair.  On  our  behalf,  the  National  Central  Library 

wrote  to  the  Bibliotheque  Nationale  requesting  an  explanation  for  what  appeared  to  be 

deliberate  obstruction  of  legitimate  research.  No  explanation  was  forthcoming.  Shortly 

thereafter,  however,  a  Xerox  copy  of  Antoine  1"Ermite's  work  was  at  last  dispatched  to  us 

-along  with  emphatic  instructions  that  it  be  returned  immediately.  This  in  itself  was 

extremely  singular,  for  libraries  do  not  generally  request  return  of  Xerox  copies.  Such 

copies  are  usually  deemed  mere  waste  paper  and  disposed  of  accordingly. 

The  work,  when  it  was  finally  in  our  hands,  proved  distinctly  disappointing  hardly  worth  the 

complicated  business  of  obtaining;  it. 

Like  Madeleine 

Blancassal's  work,  it  bore  the  imprint  of  the  Swiss  Grande  Loge  Alpina. 

But  it  said  nothing  in  any  way  new.  Very  briefly,  it  recapitulated  the 

history  of  the  Comte  of  Razes,  of  RennesleChateau  and  Berenger 


95 


Sauniere.  In  short,  it  rehashed  all  the  details  with  which  we  had 

long  been  familiar.  There  seemed  to  be  no  imaginable  reason  why  anyone 

should  have  been  using  it,  and  keeping  it  "communique',  for  a  solid 

week.  Nor  did  there  seem  any  imaginable  reason  for  withholding  it  from 

us.  But  most  puzzling  of  all,  the  work  itself  was  not  original.  With 

the  exception  of  a  few  words  altered  here  and  there,  it  was  a  verbatim 

text,  reset  and  reprinted,  of  a  chapter  in  a  popular  paperback  a  facile 

best-seller,  available  at  news-stands  for  a  few  francs,  on  lost 

treasures  throughout  the  world.  Either  Antoine  1  "Ermite  had 

shamelessly  plagiarised  the  published  book,  or  the  published  book  had 

plagiarised 

Antoine  1  "Ermite. 

Such  occurrences  are  typical  of  the  mystification  that  has  attended  the 

material  which,  since  1956,  has  been  appearing  fragment  by  fragment 

in 

France.  Other  researchers  have  encountered  similar  enigmas.  Ostensibly  plausible 

names  have  proved  to  be  pseudonyms.  Addresses,  including  addresses  of  publishing 

houses  and  organisations,  have  proved  not  to  exist.  References  have  been  cited  to  books 

which  no  one,  to  our  knowledge,  has  ever  seen. 

Documents  have  disappeared,  been  altered,  or  inexplicably  mis  catalogued  in  the 

Bibilotheque  Nationale.  At  times  one  is  tempted  to  suspect  a  practical  joke.  If  so, 

however,  it  is  a  practical  joke  on  an  enormous  scale,  involving  an  impressive  array  of 

resources  financial  and  otherwise.  And  whoever  might  be  perpetrating  such  a  joke  would 

seem  to  be  taking  it  very  seriously  indeed. 

In  the  meantime  new  material  has  continued  to  appear,  with  the  familiar 

themes  recurring  like  leitmotifs  -Sauni6re,  Rennes-leChateau,  Poussin, 

"Les  Bergers  d'Arcadie',  the  Knights  Templar,  Dagobert  II  and  the 

Merovingian  dynasty.  Allusions  to  viticulture  the  grafting  of  vines 

figure  prominently,  presumably  in  some  allegorical  sense.  At  the  same 

time,  more  and  more  information  has  been  added.  The  identification  of 

Henri 

Lobineau  as  the  count  of  Lenoncourt  is  one  example.  Another  is  an  increasing  but 

unexplained  insistence  on  the  significance  of  the  Magdalene. 

And  two  other  locations  have  been  stressed  repeatedly,  assuming  a 

status  now  apparently  commensurate  with  Rennes-leChateau.  One  of  these 


96 


is  Gisors,  a  fortress  in  Normandy  which  was  of  vital  strategic  and 

political  importance  at  the  peak  of  the 

Crusades.  The  other  is  Stenay,  once  called  Satanicum,  on  the  fringe  of 

the 

Ardennes  the  old  capital  of  the  Merovingian  dynasty,  near  which 

Dagobert 

II  was  assassinated  in  679. 

The  corpus  of  material  now  available  cannot  be  adequately  reviewed  or  discussed  in 

these  pages.  It  is  too  dense,  too  confusing,  too  disconnected,  most  of  all  too  copious.  But 

from  this  ever-proliferating  welter  of  information,  certain  key  points  emerge  which 

constitute  a  foundation  for  further  research.  They  are  presented  as  indisputable  historical 

fact,  and  can  be  summarised  as  follows:  1) 

There  was  a  secret  order  behind  the  Knights  Templar,  which  created 

the 

Templars  as  its  military  and  administrative  arm.  This  order,  which  has 

functioned  under  a  variety  of  names,  is  most  frequently  known  as  the 

Prieure  de  Sion  ("Priory  of  Sion').  2)  The  Prieure  de  Sion  has  been 

directed  by  a  sequence  of  Grand  Masters  whose  names  are  among  the  most 

illustrious  in  Western  history  and  culture.  3)  Although  the  Knights 

Templar  were  destroyed  and  dissolved  between  1307  and  1314,  the  Prieure 

de  Sion  remained  unscathed.  Although  itself  periodically  torn  by 

internecine  and  factional  strife,  it  has  continued  to  function  through 

the  centuries.  Acting  in  the  shadows,  behind  the  scenes,  it  has 

orchestrated  certain  of  the  critical  events  in  Western  history.  4)  The 

Prieure  de  Sion  exists  today  and  is  still  operative.  It  is  influential 

and  plays  a  role  in  high-level  international  affairs,  as  well  as  in  the 

domestic  affairs  of  certain  European  countries.  To  some  significant 

extent  it  is  responsible  for  the  body  of  information  disseminated  since 

1956.  5)  The  avowed  and  declared  objective  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  is 

the  restoration  of  the  Merovingian  dynasty  and  bloodline  to  the  throne 

not  only  of  France,  but  to  the  thrones  of  other  European  nations  as 

well.  6)  The  restoration  of  the  Merovingian  dynasty  is  sanctioned  and 

justifiable,  both  legally  and  morally.  Although  deposed  in  the  eighth 

century,  the  Merovingian  bloodline  did  not  become  extinct.  On  the 

contrary  it  perpetuated  itself  in  a  direct  line  from  Dagobert  II  and 

his  son, 


97 


Sigisbert  IV.  By  dint  of  dynastic  alliances  and  intermarriages,  this 

line  came  to  include  Godfroi  de  Bouillon,  who  captured  Jerusalem  in 

1099,  and  various  other  noble  and  royal  families,  past  and  present 

Blanchefort,  Gisors, 

Saint  Clair  (Sinclair  in  England),  Montesquieu,  Montpezat,  Poher, 

Luisignan, 

Plantard  and  Habsburg-Lorraine.  At  present,  the  Merovingian  bloodline  enjoys  a 

legitimate  claim  to  its  rightful  heritage. 

Here,  in  the  so-called  Prieure  de  Sion,  was  a  possible  explanation  for  the  reference  to 

"Sion'  in  the  parchments  found  by  Berenger  Sauniere.  Here,  too,  was  an  explanation  for 

the  curious  signature,  "P.S."  which  appeared  on  one  of  those  parchments,  and  on  the 

tombstone  of  Marie  de  Blanchefort. 

Nevertheless,  we  were  extremely  sceptical,  like  most  people,  about  'conspiracy  theories  of 

history';  and  most  of  the  above  assertions  struck  us  as  irrelevant,  improbable  and/or 

absurd.  But  the  fact  remained  that  certain  people  were  promulgating  them,  and  doing  so 

quite  seriously;  quite  seriously  and,  there  was  reason  to  believe,  from  positions  of 

considerable  power.  And  whatever  the  truth  of  the  assertions,  they  were  clearly 

connected  in  some  way  with  the  mystery  surrounding  Sauniere  and  Rennes-le  Chateau. 

We,  therefore,  embarked  on  a  systematic  examination  of  what  we  had  begun  to  call, 

ironically,  the  "Prieure  documents',  and  of  the  assertions  they  contained.  We 

endeavoured  to  subject  these  assertions  to  careful  critical  scrutiny  and  determine  whether 

they  could  be  in  any  way  substantiated.  We  did  so  with  a  cynical,  almost  derisory 

scepticism,  fully  convinced  the  outlandish  claims  would  wither  under  even  cursory 

investigation.  Although  we  could  not  know  it  at  the  time,  we  were  to  be  greatly  surprised. 


98 


Two  The  Secret  Society 


99 


5  The  Order  Behind  the  Scenes 

We  had  already  suspected  the  existence  of  a  group  of  individuals,  if  not  a  coherent 

"order',  behind  the  Knights  Templar.  The  claim  that  the  Temple  was  created  by  the 

Prieure  de  Sion  thus  seemed  slightly  more  plausible  than  the  other  assertions  in  the 

"Prieure  documents'.  It  was  with  this  claim,  therefore,  that  we  started  our  examination. 

As  early  as  1962  the  Prieure  de  Sion  had  been  mentioned,  briefly, 

cryptically  and  in  passing,  in  a  work  by  Gerard  de  Sede.  The  first 

detailed  reference  to  it  that  we  found,  however,  was  a  single  page  in 

the  Dossiers  secrets.  At  the  top  of  this  page  there  is  a  quotation 

from  Rene  Grousset,  one  of  the  foremost  twentieth-century  authorities 

on  the  Crusades,  whose  monumental  opus  on  the  subject,  published  during 

the  1930s,  is  regarded  as  a  seminal  work  by  such  modern  historians  as 

Sir  Steven  Runciman.  The  quotation  refers  to  Baudouin  I,  younger 

brother  of  Godfroi  de  Bouillon, 

Duke  of  Lorraine  and  conqueror  of  the  Holy  Land.  On  Godfroi's  death, 

Baudouin  accepted  the  crown  offered  him  and  thereby  became  the  first 

official  king  of  Jerusalem.  According  to  Rene  Grousset,  there  existed, 

through  Bau_douin  I,  a  "royal  tradition'.  And  because  it  was  "founded 

on  the  rock  of  Sion',"  this  tradition  was  "equal'  to  the  reigning 

dynasties  in 

Europe  the  Capetian  dynasty  of  France,  the  Anglo  Norman  (Plantagenet) 

dynasty  of  England,  the  Hohenstauffen  and  Habsburg  dynasties  which 

presided  over  Germany  and  the  old  Holy  Roman  Empire.  But  Baudouin  and 

his  descendants  were  elected  kings,  not  kings  by  blood.  Why,  then, 

should 

Grousset  speak  of  a  'royal  tradition'  which  "existed  through'  him? 

Grousset  himself  does  not  explain.  Nor  does  he  explain  why  this 

tradition,  because  it  was  "founded  on  the  rock  of  Sion',  should  be 


100 


"equal'  to  the  foremost  dynasties  of  Europe.  On  the  page  in  the 
Dossiers  secrets  Grousset's  quotation  is  followed  by  an  allusion  to  the 
mysterious  Prieure  de  Sion  or  Ordre  de  Sion,  as  it  was  apparently 
called  at  the  time.  According  to  the  text,  the  Ordre  de  Sion  was 
founded  by  Godfroi  de  Bouillon  in  1090,  nine  years  before  the  conquest 
of 

Jerusalem  although  there  are  other  "Prieure  documents'  which  give  the 
founding  date  as  1099.  According  to  the  text,  Baudouin,  Godfroi's 
younger  brother,  'owed  his  throne'  to  the  Order.  And  according  to  the 
text,  the 

Order's  official  seat,  or  'headquarters',  was  a  specific  abbey  the 
Abbey  of  Notre  Dame  duMont  de  Sion  in  Jerusalem.  Or  perhaps  just 
outside 

Jerusalem  on  Mount  Sion,  the  famous  'high  hill'  just  south  of  the  city. 
On  consulting  all  standard  twentieth-century  works  on  the  Crusades,  we  found  no  mention 
whatever  of  any  Ordre  de  Sion.  We  therefore  undertook  to  establish  whether  or  not  such 
an  Order  ever  existed  and  whether  it  could  have  had  the  power  to  confer  thrones.  To  do 
that,  we  were  obliged  to  rummage  through  sheaves  of  antiquated  documents  and 
charters.  We  did  not  just  seek  explicit  references  to  the  Order.  We  also  sought  some 
trace  of  its  possible  influence  and  activities.  And  we  endeavoured  to  confirm  whether  or 
not  there  was  an  abbey  called  Notre  Dame  duMont  de  Sion. 

To  the  south  of  Jerusalem  looms  the  'high  hill'  of  Mount  Sion.  In  1099,  when  Jerusalem 
fell  to  Godfroi  de  Bouillon's  crusaders,  there  stood  on  this  hill  the  ruins  of  an  old  Byzantine 
basilica,  dating  supposedly  from  the  fourth  century  and  called  'the  Mother  of  all  Churches' 
-  a  most  suggestive  title.  According  to  numerous  extant  charters,  chronicles  and 
contemporary  accounts,  an  abbey  was  built  on  the  site  of  these  ruins.  It  was  built  at  the 
express  command  of  Godfroi  de  Bouillon.  It  must  have  been  an  imposing  edifice,  a  self- 
contained  community.  According  to  one  chronicler,  writing  in  1 1 72,  it  was  extremely  well 
fortified,  with  its  own  walls,  towers  and  battlements.  And  this  structure  was  called  the 
Abbey  of  Notre  Dame  duMont  de  Sion. 

Someone,  obviously,  had  to  occupy  the  premises.  Could  they  have  been 
an  autonomous  'order',  taking  their  name  from  the  site  itself?  Could 
the  occupants  of  the  abbey  indeed  have  been  the  Ordre  de  Sion?  It  was 


101 


not  unreasonable  to  assume  so.  The  knights  and  monks  who  occupied  the 

Church  of  the  Holy  Sepulchre,  also  installed  by  Godfroi,  were  formed 

into  an  official  and  duly  constituted  'order'  the  Order  of  the  Holy 

Sepulchre.  The  same  principle  might  well  have  obtained  for  the 

occupants  of  the  abbey  on  Mount  Sion,  and  it  would  seem  to  have  done 

so.  According  to  the  leading  nineteenth-century  expert  on  the  subject, 

the  abbey  'was  inhabited  by  a  chapter  of  Augustinian  canons,  charged 

with  serving  the  sanctuaries  under  the  direction  of  an  abbot.  The 

community  assumed  the  double  name  of 

"Sainte-Marie  duMont  Syon  et  du  Saint-Esprit'  1.12  And  another 

historian,  writing  in  1698,  is  more  explicit  still:  "There  were  in 

Jerusalem  during  the 

Crusades  ..  .  knights  attached  to  the  Abbey  of  Notre  Dame  de  Sion  who 

took  the  name  of  "Chevaliers  de  1  "Ordre  de  Notre  Dame  de  Sion'  1.13 

If  this  were  not  sufficient  confirmation,  we  also  discovered  documents 

of  the  period  original  documents  -bearing  the  seal  and  signature  of  one 

or  another  prior  of  "Notre  Dame  de  Sion'.  There  is  a  charter,  for 

example,  signed  by  a  Prior  Arnaldus  and  dated  July  1 9th,  1 1 1 6.4  On 

another  charter,  dated  May  2nd,  1 125,  Arnaldus's  name  appears  in 

conjunction  with  that  of 

Hugues  de  Payen,  first  Grand  Master  of  the  "Temple. 5 

So  far  the  "Prieure  documents'  had  proved  valid,  and  we  could  assert  that  an  Ordre  de 

Sion  did  exist  by  the  turn  of  the  twelfth  century. 

Whether  or  not  the  Order  had  actually  been  formed  earlier,  however, 

remained  an  open  question.  There  is  no  consistency  about  which  comes 

first,  an  order,  or  the  premises  in  which  it  is  housed.  The 

Cistercians,  for  instance,  "took  their  name  from  a  specific  place, 

Citeaux.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Franciscans  and 

Benedictines  to  cite  but  two  examples  took  their  names  from  individuals,  and  pre-dated 

any  fixed  abode.  The  most  we  could  say,  therefore,  was  that  an  abbey  existed  by  1 100 

and  housed  an  order  of  the  same  name  which  may  have  been  formed  earlier. 

The  "Prieure  documents'  imply  that  it  was,  and  there  is  some  evidence 

to  suggest,  albeit  vaguely  and  obliquely,  that  this  may  indeed  have 

been  the  case.  It  is  known  that  in  1070,  twenty-nine  years  before  the 

First  Crusade,  a  specific  band  of  monks,  from  Calabria  in  southern 

Italy,  arrived  in  the  vicinity  of  the  Ardennes  Forest,  part  of  Godfroi 

de  Bouillon's  domains. 6 


102 


According  to  Gerard  de  Sede,  this  band  of  monks  was  led  by  an 

individual  called  "Ursus'  -  a  name  which  the  "Prieure  documents'  consistently  associate 

with  the  Merovingian  bloodline.  On  their  arrival  in  the  Ardennes,  the  Calabrian  monks 

obtained  the  patronage  of  Mathilde  de  Toscane,  Duchess  of  Lorraine  who  was  Godfroi  de 

Bouillon's  aunt  and,  in  effect,  foster-mother.  From  Mathilde  the  monks  received  a  tract  of 

land  at  Orval,  not  far  from  Stenay,  where  Dagobert  II  had  been  assassinated  some  five 

hundred  years  earlier.  Here  an  abbey  was  established  to  house  them.  Nevertheless  they 

did  not  remain  at  Orval  very  long.  By  1 108  they  had  mysteriously  disappeared,  and  no 

record  of  their  whereabouts  survives.  Tradition  says  they  returned  to  Calabria.  Orval,  by 

1131,  had  become  one  of  the  fiefs  owned  by  Saint  Bernard. 

Before  their  departure  from  Orval,  however,  the  Calabrian  monks  may 

have  left  a  crucial  mark  on  Western  history.  According  to  Gerard  de 

Sede,  at  least,  they  included  the  man  subsequently  known  as  Peter  the 

Hermit.  If  this  is  so,  it  would  be  extremely  significant,  for  Peter 

the  Hermit  is  often  believed  to  have  been  Godfroi  de  Bouillon's 

personal  tutor."  Nor  is  that  his  only  claim  to  fame.  In  1095,  along 

with  Pope  Urban  II,  Peter  made  himself  known  throughout  Christendom  by 

charismatic  ally  preaching  the  need  for  a  crusade  a  holy  war  which 

would  reclaim  Christ's  sepulchre  and  the 

Holy  Land  from  the  hands  of  the  Muslim  infidel.  Today  Peter  the  Hermit  is  regarded  as 

one  of  the  chief  instigators  of  the  Crusades. 

On  the  basis  of  hints  intimated  in  the  "Prieure  documents',  we  began  to 

wonder  whether  there  might  have  been  some  sort  of  shadowy  continuity 

between  the  monks  of  Orval,  Peter  the  Hermit  and  the  Ordre  de  Sion.  It 

would  certainly  seem  that  the  monks  at  Orval  were  not  just  a  random 

band  of  itinerant  religious  devotees.  On  the  contrary  their  movements 

their  collective  arrival  in  the  Ardennes  from  Calabria  and  their 

mysterious  disappearance  en  masse  attest  to  some  kind  of  cohesion,  some 

kind  of  organisation  and  perhaps  a  permanent  base  somewhere.  And  if 

Peter  were  a  member  of  this  band  of  monks,  his  preaching  of  a  crusade 

might  have  been  a  manifestation  not  of  rampant  fanaticism,  but  of 

calculated  policy.  If  he  was  Godfroi's  personal  tutor,  moreover,  he 


103 


might  well  have  played  some  role  in  convincing  his  pupil  to  embark  for 

the 

Holy  Land.  And  when  the  monks  vanished  from  Orval,  they  might  not  have 

returned  to  Calabria  after  all.  They  might  have  established  themselves 

in 

Jerusalem,  perhaps  in  the  Abbey  of  Notre  Dame  de  Sion. 

This,  of  course,  was  only  a  speculative  hypothesis,  with  no  documentary 

confirmation.  Again,  however,  we  soon  found  fragments  of 

circumstantial  evidence  to  support  it.  When  Godfroi  de  Bouillon 

embarked  for  the  Holy 

Land,  he  is  known  to  have  been  accompanied  by  an  entourage  of  anonymous  figures  who 

acted  as  advisors  and  administrators  the  equivalent,  in  effect,  of  a  modern  general  staff. 

But  Godfroi's  was  not  the  only  Christian  army  to  embark  for  Palestine.  There  were  no  less 

than  three  others,  each  commanded  by  an  illustrious  and  influential  Western  potentate.  If 

the  crusade  proved  successful,  if  Jerusalem  did  fall  and  a  Frankish  kingdom  were 

established,  any  one  of  these  four  potentates  would  have  been  eligible  to  occupy  its 

throne.  And  yet  Godfroi  seems  to  have  known  beforehand  that  he  would  be  selected. 

Alone  among  the  European  commanders,  he  renounced  his  fiefs,  sold  all  his  goods  and 

made  it  apparent  that  the  Holy  Land,  for  the  duration  of  his  life,  would  be  his  domain. 

In  1 099,  immediately  after  the  capture  of  Jerusalem,  a  group  of 

anonymous  figures  convened  in  secret  conclave.  The  identity  of  this 

group  has  eluded  all  historical  inquiry  although  Guillaume  de  Tyre, 

writing  three-quarters  of  a  century  later,  reports  that  the  most 

important  of  them  was  'a  certain  bishop  from  Calabria  '.8  In  any  case 

the  purpose  of  the  meeting  was  clear  to  elect  a  king  of  Jerusalem.  And 

despite  a  persuasive  claim  by  Raymond, 

Count  of  Toulouse,  the  mysterious  and  obviously  influential  electors  promptly  offered  the 

throne  to  Godfroi  de  Bouillon.  With  uncharacteristic  modesty,  Godfroi  declined  the  title, 

accepting  instead  that  of  "Defender  of  the  Holy  Sepulchre'.  In  other  words,  he  was  a  king 

in  everything  but  name. 

And  when  he  died,  in  1 100,  his  brother,  Baudouin,  did  not  hesitate  to  accept  the  name  as 

well. 

Could  the  mysterious  conclave  which  elected  Godfroi  ruler  have  been  the 

elusive  monks  from  Orval  including  perhaps  Peter  the  Hermit,  who  was  in 


104 


the  Holy  Land  at  the  time  and  enjoyed  considerable  authority?  And 

could  this  same  conclave  have  occupied  the  abbey  on  Mount  Sion?  In 

short,  could  those  three  ostensibly  distinct  groups  of  individuals  the 

monks  from  Orval,  the  conclave  who  elected  Godfroi  and  the  occupants  of 

Notre  Dame  de  Sion  -have  been  one  and  the  same?  The  possibility  cannot 

be  proved,  but  neither  can  it  be  dismissed  out  of  hand.  And  if  it  is 

true,  it  would  certainly  attest  to  the  Ordre  de 

Sion's  power  a  power  which  included  the  right  to  confer  thrones. 

The  Mystery  Surrounding  the  Foundation  of  the  Knights  Templar 

The  text  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  goes  on  to  refer  to  the  Order  of  the 

Temple.  The  founders  of  the  Temple  are  specifically  listed  as,  "Hugues 

de 

Payen,  Bisol  de  St.  Omer  and  Hugues,  Comte  de  Champagne,  along  with 

certain  members  of  the  Ordre  de  Sion,  Andre  de  Montbard,  Archambaud  de 

Saint-Aignan, 

Nivard  de  Montdidier,  Gondemar  and  Rossal'.9 

We  were  already  familiar  with  Hugues  de  Payen  and  Andre  de  Montbard, 

Saint 

Bernard's  uncle.  We  were  also  familiar  with  Hugues,  Count  of  Champagne 

who  donated  the  land  for  Saint  Bernard's  abbey  at  Clairvaux,  became  a 

Templar  himself  in  1124  (pledging  fealty  to  his  own  vassal)  and  received  from  the  bishop 

of  Chartres  the  letter  quoted  in  Chapter  3.  But  although  the  count  of  Champagne's 

connection  with  the  Templars  was  well  known,  we  had  never  before  seen  him  cited  as  one 

of  their  founders.  In  the  Dossiers  secrets  he  is.  And  Andre  de  Montbard,  Saint  Bernard's 

shadowy  uncle,  is  listed  as  belonging  to  the  Ordre  de  Sion,  in  other  words  to  another 

Order,  which  predates  the  Order  -of  the  Temple  and  plays  an  instrumental  role  in  the 

Temple's  creation. 

Nor  is  that  all.  The  text  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  states  that  in  March 

1117,  Baudouin  1 ,  'who  owed  his  throne  to  Sion',  was  'obliged'  to 

negotiate  the  constitution  of  the  Order  of  the  Temple  at  the  site  of 

Saint  Leonard  of  Acre.  Our  own  research  revealed  that  Saint  Leonard  of 

Acre  was  in  fact  one  of  the  fiefs  of  the  OFdre  de  Sion.  But  we  were 

uncertain  why  Baudouin  should  have  been  'obliged'  to  negotiate  the 

Temple's  constitution.  In 


105 


French  the  verb  certainly  connotes  a  degree  of  coercion  or  pressure. 
And  the  implication  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  was  that  this  pressure  was 
brought  to  bear  by  the  Ordre  de  Sion  to  whom  Baudouin  "owed  his 
throne'.  If  this  were  the  case,  the 

Ordre  de  Sion  would  have  been  a  most  influential  and  powerful  organisation  an 
organisation  which  could  not  only  confer  thrones,  but  also,  apparently,  compel  a  king  to  do 
its  bidding. 

If  the  Ordre  de  Sion  was  in  fact  responsible  for  Godfroi  de  Bouillon's  election,  then 
Baudouin,  Godfroi's  younger  brother,  would  have  'owed  his  throne'  to  its  influence.  As  we 
had  already  discovered,  moreover,  there  was  indisputable  evidence  that  the  Order  of  the 
Temple  existed,  at  least  in  embryonic  form,  a  good  four  years  before  the  generally 
accepted  foundation  date  of  1 1 1 8.   In  1 1 1 7  Baudouin  was  a  sick  man,  whose  death  was 
patently  imminent.  It  is  therefore  possible  that  the  Knights  Templar  were  active,  albeit  in 
an  ex  officio  capacity,  long  before  1 1 18  as,  say,  a  military  or  administrative  arm  of  the 
Ordre  de  Sion,  housed  in  its  fortified  abbey.  And  it  is  possible  that  King  Baudouin,  on  his 
deathbed,  was  compelled  by  illness,  by  the  Ordre  de  Sion  or  by  both  to  grant  the 
Templars  some  official  status,  to  give  them  a  constitution  and  make  them  public. 
In  researching  the  Templars  we  had  already  begun  to  discern  a  web  of  intricate,  elusive 
and  provocative  connections,  the  shadowy  vestiges  perhaps  of  some  ambitious  design. 
On  the  basis  of  these  connections,  we  had  formulated  a  tentative  hypothesis.  Whether 
our  hypothesis  was  accurate  or  not,  we  could  not  know;  but  the  vestiges  of  a  design  had 
now  become  even  more  apparent.  We  assembled  the  fragments  of  the  pattern  as  follows: 
1)  In  the  late  eleventh  century  a  mysterious  group  of  monks  from  Calabria  appears  in  the 
Ardennes,  where  they  are  welcomed,  patronised  and  given  land  at  Orval  by  Godfroi  de 
Bouillon's  aunt  and  foster-mother.  2)  A  member  of  this  group  may  have  been  Godfroi's 
personal  tutor  and  may  have  co-instigated  the  First  Crusade.  3)  Some  time  before  1 108 
the  monks  at  Orval  decamp  and  disappear.  Although  there  is  no  record  of  their 
destination,  it  may  well  have  been  Jerusalem. 


106 


Certainly  Peter  the  Hermit  embarked  for  Jerusalem;  and  if  he  was  one 

of  the  monks  at  Orval,  it  is  probable  that  his  brethren  later  joined 

him.  4)  In  1099  Jerusalem  falls  and  Godfroi  is  offered  a  throne  by  an 

anonymous  conclave  a  leader  of  whom,  like  the  monks  of  Orval,  is  of 

Calabrian  origin.  5)  An  abbey  is  built  at  Godfroi's  behest  on  Mount 

Sion,  which  houses  an  order  of  the  same  name  as  itself  an  order  which 

may  comprise  the  individuals  who  offered  him  the  throne.  6)  By  1 1 14 

the  Knights  Templar  are  already  active,  perhaps  as  the  Ordre  de 

Sion's  armed  entourage;  but  their  constitution  is  not  negotiated  until  1117,  and  they 

themselves  are  not  made  public  until  the  following  year. 

7)  In  1 1 15  Saint  Bernard  member  of  the  Cistercian  Order,  then  on  the 
brink  of  economic  collapse  emerges  as  the  pre-eminent  spokesman  of 
Christendom.  And  the  formerly  destitute  Cistercians  rapidly  become  one  of  the  most 
prominent,  influential  and  wealthy  institutions  in  Europe. 

8)  In  1 131  Saint  Bernard  receives  the  abbey  of  Orval,  vacated  some 
years  before  by  the  monks  from  Calabria.  Orval  then  becomes  a 
Cistercian  house.  9)  At  the  same  time  certain  obscure  figures  seem  to 
move  constantly  in  and  out  of  these  events,  stitching  the  tapestry 
together  in  a  manner  that  is  not  altogether  clear.  The  count  of 
Champagne,  for  example,  donates  the  land  for  Saint  Bernard's  abbey  at 
Clairvaux,  establishes  a  court  at  Troyes,  whence  the  Grail  romances 
subsequently  issue  and,  in  1114,  contemplates  joining  the  Knights 
Templar  whose  first  recorded  Grand  Master,  Hugues  de 

Payen,  is  already  his  vassal.  10)  Andre  de  Montbard  Saint  Bernard's 

uncle  and  an  alleged  member  of  the 

Ordre  de  Sion  joins  Hugues  de  Payen  in  founding  the  Knights  Templar. 

Shortly  thereafter  Andre's  two  brothers  join  Saint  Bernard  at 

Clairvaux.  1 1 )  Saint  Bernard  becomes  an  enthusiastic  public  relations 

exponent  for  the 

Templars,  contributes  to  their  official  incorporation  and  the 

drawing-up  of  their  rule  -which  is  essentially  that  of  the  Cistercians, 

Bernard's  own  order.  1 2)  Between  approximately  1115  and  1 1 40,  both 

Cistercians  and  Templars  begin  to  prosper,  acquiring  vast  sums  of  money 


107 


and  tracts  of  land.  Again  we  could  not  but  wonder  whether  this 

multitude  of  intricate  connections  was  indeed  wholly  coincidental.  Were  we  looking  at  a 

number  of  essentially  disconnected  people,  events  and  phenomena  which  just 

"happened',  at  intervals,  to  overlap  and  cross  each  other's  paths?  Or  were  we  dealing 

with  something  that  was  not  random  or  coincidental  at  all?  Were  we  dealing  with  a  plan  of 

some  sort,  conceived  and  engineered  by  some  human  agency?  And  could  that  agency 

have  been  the  Ordre  de  Sion? 

Could  the  Ordre  de  Sion  have  actually  stood  behind  both  Saint  Bernard  and  the  Knights 

Templar?  And  could  both  have  been  acting  in  accordance  with  some  carefully  evolved 

policy? 

Louis  VII  and  the  Prieure  de  Sion 

The  "Prieure  documents'  gave  no  indication  of  the  Ordre  de  Sion's  activities  between  1118 

the  public  foundation  of  the  Templars  and  1 152. 

For  the  whole  of  that  time,  it  would  seem,  the  Ordre  de  Sion  remained 

based  in  the 

Holy  Land,  in  the  abbey  outside  Jerusalem.  Then,  on  his  return  from 

the 

Second  Crusade,  Louis  VII  of  France  is  said  to  have  brought  with  him 

ninety-five  members  of  the  Order.  There  is  no  indication  of  the 

capacity  in  which  they  might  have  attended  the  king,  nor  why  he  should 

have  extended  his  bounty  to  them.  But  if  the  Ordre  de  Sion  was  indeed 

the  power  behind  the 

Temple,  that  would  constitute  an  explanation  since  Louis  VII  was  heavily  indebted  to  the 

Temple,  both  for  money  and  military  support. 

In  any  case  the 

Ordre  de  Sion,  created  half  a  century  previously  by  Godfroi  de  Bouillon,  in  1 152 

established  or  re-established  a  foothold  in  France.  According  to  the  text,  sixty  two 

members  of  the  Order  were  installed  at  the  "large  priory'  of  Saint-Samson  at  Orleans, 

which  King  Louis  had  donated  to  them.  Seven  were  reportedly  incorporated  into  the 

fighting  ranks  of  the  Knights  Templar.  And  twenty-six  two  groups  of  thirteen  each  are  said 

to  have  entered  the  "small  Priory  of  the  Mount  of  Sion',  situated  at  Saint  jean  le  Blanc  on 

the  outskirts  of  Orleans.  ' 

In  trying  to  authenticate  these  statements,  we  suddenly  found  ourselves 

on  readily  provable  ground.  The  charters  by  which  Louis  VII  installed 

the 


108 


Ordre  de  Sion  at  Orleans  are  still  extant.  Copies  have  been 

reproduced  in  a  number  of  sources,  and  the  originals  can  be  seen  in  the 

municipal  archives  of  Orleans.  In  the  same  archives  there  is  also  a 

Bull  dated  1 178,  from  Pope  Alexander  III,  which  officially  confirms  the 

Ordre  de  Sion's  possessions.  These  possessions  attest  to  the  Order's 

wealth,  power  and  influence.  They  include  houses  and  large  tracts  of 

land  in  Picardy,  in  France  (including  Saint-Samson  at 

Orleans),  in  Lombardy,  Sicily,  Spain  and  Calabria,  as  well,  of  course,  as  a  number  of  sites 

in  the  Holy  Land,  including  Saint  Leonard  at  Acre. 

Until  the 

Second  World  War,  in  fact,  there  were  in  the  archives  of  Orleans"  no  less  than  twenty 

charters  specifically  citing  the  Ordre  de  Sion.  During  the  bombing  of  the  city  in  1940  all 

but  three  of  these  disappeared. 

The  "Cutting  of  the  Ehn'  at  Gisors 

If  the  "Prieure  documents'  can  be  believed,  1 1 88  was  a  year  of  crucial 

importance  for  both  Sion  and  the  Knights  Templar.  A  year  before,  in 

1187, 

Jerusalem  had  been  lost  to  the  Saracens  chiefly  through  the  impetuosity 

and  ineptitude  of  Gerard  de  Ridefort,  Grand  Master  of  the  Temple.  The 

text  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  is  considerably  more  severe.  It  speaks 

not  of 

Gerard's  impetuosity  or  ineptitude,  but  of  his  "treason'  -  a  very  harsh 

word  indeed.  What  constituted  this  'treason'  is  not  explained.  But  as 

a  result  of  it  the  'initiates'  of  Sion  are  said  to  have  returned  en 

masse  to  France  presumably  to  Orleans.  Logically  this  assertion  is 

plausible  enough.  When 

Jerusalem  fell  to  the  Saracens,  the  abbey  on  Mount  Sion  would  obviously  have  fallen  as 

well.  Deprived  of  their  base  in  the  Holy  Land,  it  would  not  be  surprising  if  the  abbey's 

occupants  had  sought  refuge  in  France  where  a  new  base  already  existed. 

The  events  of  1 187  Gerard  de  Ridefort's  'treason'  and  the  loss  of 

Jerusalem  seem  to  have  precipitated  a  disastrous  rift  between  the  Ordre 

de  Sion  and  the  Order  of  the  Temple.  It  is  not  clear  precisely  why 

this  should  have  occurred;  but  according  to  the  Dossiers  secrets  the 

following  year  witnessed  a  decisive  turning-point  in  the  affairs  of 


109 


both  orders.  In  1 188  a  formal  separation  supposedly  occurred  between 

the  two  institutions.  The  Ordre  de  Sion,  which  had  created  the  Knights  Templar,  now 

washed  its  hands  of  its  celebrated  proteges.  The  'parent',  in  other  words,  officially 

disowned  the  'child'. 

This  rupture  is  said  to  have  been  commemorated  by  a  ritual  or  ceremony  of  some  sort.  In 

the  Dossiers  secrets  and  other  "Prieure  documents',  it  is  referred  to  as  "the  cutting  of  the 

elm',  and  allegedly  took  place  at  Gisors. 

Accounts  are  garbled  and  obscure,  but  history  and  tradition  both  confirm  that  something 

extremely  odd  occurred  at  Gisors  in  1 188  which  did  involve  the  cutting  of  an  elm.  On  the 

land  adjacent  to  the  fortress  there  was  a  meadow  called  the  Champ  Sacre  the  Sacred 

Field. 

According  to  medieval  chroniclers,  the  site  had  been  deemed  sacred 

since  pre-Christian  times,  and  during  the  twelfth  century  had  provided 

the  setting  for  numerous  meetings  between  the  kings  of  England  and 

France.  In  the  middle  of  the  Sacred  Field  stood  an  ancient  elm.  And 

in  1188,  during  a  meeting  between  Henry  II  of 

England  and  Philippe  II  of  France,  for  some  unknown  reason  this  elm  became  an  object  of 

serious,  even  bloody,  contention. 

According  to  one  account,  the  elm  afforded  the  only  shade  on  the 

Sacred 

Field.  It  was  said  to  be  more  than  eight  hundred  years  old,  and  so  large  that  nine  men, 

linking  hands,  could  barely  encompass  its  trunk.  Under  the  shade  of  this  tree  Henry  II  and 

his  entourage  supposedly  took  shelter,  leaving  the  French  monarch,  who  arrived  later,  to 

the  merciless  sunlight. 

By  the  third  day  of  negotiations  French  tempers  had  become  frayed  by  the  heat,  insults 

were  exchanged  by  the  men-at-arms  and  an  arrow  flew  from  the  ranks  of  Henry's  Welsh 

mercenaries.  This  provoked  a  full-scale  onslaught  by  the  French,  who  greatly 

outnumbered  the  English.  The  latter  sought  refuge  within  the  walls  of  Gisors  itself,  while 

the  French  are  said  to  have  cut  down  the  tree  in  frustration.  Philippe  II  then  stormed  back 

to  Paris  in  a  huff,  declaring  he  had  not  come  to  Gisors  to  play  the  role  of  woodcutter. 

The  story  has  a  characteristic  medieval  simplicity  and  quaintness, 

contenting  itself  with  superficial  narrative  while  hinting  between  the 

lines  at  something  of  greater  import  explanations  and  motivations  which 

are  left  unexplored.  In  itself  it  would  almost  seem  to  be  absurd  -as 


110 


absurd  and  possibly  apocryphal  as,  say,  the  tales  associated  with  the 

founding  of  the  Order  of  the  Garter. 

And  yet  there  is  confirmation  of  the  story,  if  not  its  specific  details,  in  other  accounts. 

According  to  another  chronicle,  Philippe  seems  to  have  given  notice 

to 

Henry  that  he  intended  to  cut  down  the  tree.  Henry  supposedly 

responded  by  reinforcing  the  trunk  of  the  elm  with  bands  of  iron.  On 

the  following  day  the  French  armed  themselves  and  formed  a  phalanx  of 

five  squadrons,  each  commanded  by  a  distinguished  lord  of  the  realm, 

who  advanced  on  the  elm,  accompanied  by  sling  men  as  well  as  carpenters 

equipped  with  axes  and  hammers.  A  struggle  is  said  to  have  ensued,  in 

which  Richard  Coeur  de  Lion, 

Henry's  eldest  son  and  his  heir,  participated,  attempting  to  protect 

the  tree  and  spilling  considerable  blood  in  the  process.  Nevertheless, 

the 

French  held  the  field  at  the  end  of  the  day,  and  the  tree  was  cut  down. 

This  second  account  implies  something  more  than  a  petty  squabble  or  minor  skirmish.  It 

implies  a  full-scale  engagement,  involving  substantial  numbers  and  possibly  substantial 

casualties.  Yet  no  biography  of  Richard  makes  much  of  the  affair,  still  less  explores  it. 

Again,  however,  the  "Prieure  documents'  were  confirmed  by  both  recorded  history  and 

tradition  to  the  extent,  at  least,  that  a  curious  dispute  did  occur  at  Gisors  in  1 188,  which 

involved  the  cutting  of  an  elm. 

There  is  no  external  confirmation  that  this  event  was  related  in  any 

way  to  either  the 

Knights  Templar  or  the  Ordre  de  Sion.  On  the  other  hand,  the  existing 

accounts  of  the  affair  are  too  vague,  too  scant,  too  incomprehensible, 

too  contradictory  to  be  accepted  as  definitive.  It  is  extremely 

probable  that 

Templars  were  present  at  the  incident  Richard  I  was  frequently  accompanied  by  knights  of 

the  Order,  and,  moreover,  Gisors,  thirty  years  before,  had  been  entrusted  to  the  Temple. 

Given  the  existing  evidence,  it  is  certainly  possible,  if  not  likely,  that  the  cutting  of  the  elm 

involved  something  more  or  something  other  than  the  accounts  which  have  been 

preserved  for  posterity  imply. 

Indeed,  given  the  sheer  oddness  of  surviving  accounts,  it  would  not  be 

surprising  if  there  were  something  else  involved  -something  overlooked, 

or  perhaps  never  made  public,  by  history,  something,  in  short,  of  which 


111 


the  surviving  accounts  are  a  species  of  allegory,  simultaneously 

intimating  and  concealing  an  affair  of  much  greater  import. 

Ormus 

From  1 188  onwards,  the  "Prieure  documents'  maintain,  the  Knights 

Templar  were  autonomous  no  longer  under  the  authority  of  the  Ordre  de 

Sion,  or  acting  as  its  military  and  administrative  arm.  From  1 188 

onwards  the 

Templars  were  officially  free  to  pursue  their  own  objectives  and  ends, 

to  follow  their  own  course  through  the  remaining  century  or  so  of  their 

existence  to  their  grim  doom  in  1 307.  And  in  the  meantime,  as  of  1 1 88, 

the 

Ordre  de  Sion  is  said  to  have  undergone  a  major  administrative  restructuring  of  its  own. 

Until  1 188  the  Ordre  de  Sion  and  the  Order  of  the  Temple  are  said  to  have  shared  the 

same  Grand  Master.  Hugues  de  Payen  and  Bertrand  de  Blanchefort,  for  example,  would 

thus  have  presided  over  both  institutions  simultaneously.  Commencing  in  1 188,  however, 

after  the  'cutting  of  the  elm',  the  Ordre  de  Sion  reportedly  selected  its  own  Grand  Master, 

who  had  no  connection  with  the  Temple.  The  first  such  Grand  Master,  according  to  the 

"Prieure  documents',  was  Jean  de  Gisors. 

In  1 188  the  Ordre  de  Sion  is  also  said  to  have  modified  its  name,  adopting  the  one  which 

has  allegedly  obtained  to  the  present  the  Prieure  de  Sion. 

And,  as  a  kind  of  subtitle,  it  is  said  to  have  adopted  the  curious  name  "Ormus'.  This 

subtitle  was  supposedly  used  until  1306  -  a  year  before  the  arrest  of  the  French  Templars. 

The  device  for  "Ormus'  was  U.  and  involves  a  kind  of  acrostic  or  anagram  which  combines 

a  number  of  key  words  and  symbols.  "Ours'  means  bear  in  French  "Ursus'  in  Latin,  an 

echo,  as  subsequently  became  apparent,  of  Dagobert  II  and  the  Merovingian  dynasty. 

"Ome'  is  French  for  'elm'.  "Or',  of  course,  is  'gold'.  And  the  'm'  which  forms  the  frame 

enclosing  the  other  letters  is  not  only  an  'm',  but  also  the  astrological  sign  for  Virgo 

connoting,  in  the  language  of  medieval  iconography,  Notre  Dame. 

Our  researches  revealed  no  reference  anywhere  to  a  medieval  order  or 


112 


institution  bearing  the  name  "Ormus'.  In  this  case  we  could  find  no 
external  substantiation  for  the  text  in  the 

Dossiers  secrets,  nor  even  any  circumstantial  evidence  to  argue  its  veracity.  On  the  other 
hand,  "Ormus'  does  occur  in  two  other  radically  different  contexts.  It  figures  in  Zoroastrian 
thought  and  in  Gnostic  texts,  where  it  is  synonymous  with  the  principle  of  light.  And  it 
surfaces  again  among  the  pedigrees  claimed  by  late  eighteenthcentury  Freemasonry. 
According  to  Masonic  teachings,  Ormus  was  the  name  of  an  Egyptian  sage 
and  mystic,  a  Gnostic  'adept'  of  Alexandria.  He  lived,  supposedly, 
during  the  early  years  of  the  Christian  epoch.  In  A.D.  46  he  and  six 
of  his  followers  were  supposedly  converted  to  a  form  of  Christianity  by 
one  of  Jesus's  disciples,  Saint  Mark  in  most  accounts.  From  this 
conversion  a  new  sect  or  order  is  said  to  have  been  born,  which  fused 
the  tenets  of  early 

Christianity  with  the  teachings  of  other,  even  older  mystery  schools.  To  our  knowledge 
this  story  cannot  be  authenticated.  At  the  same  time,  however,  it  is  certainly  plausible. 
During  the  first  century  A.D. 

Alexandria  was  a  veritable  hotbed  of  mystical  activity,  a  crucible  in 
which  Judaic,  Mithraic, 

Zoroastrian,  Pythagorean,  Hermetic  and  Neo-Platonic  doctrines  suffused  the  air  and 
combined  with  innumerable  others.  Teachers  of  every  conceivable  kind  abounded;  and  it 
would  hardly  be  surprising  if  one  of  them  adopted  a  name  implying  the  principle  of  light. 
According  to  Masonic  tradition,  in  A.D.  46  Ormus  is  said  to  have 
conferred  on  his  newly  constituted  'order  of  initiates'  a  specific 
identifying  symbol  -  a  red  or  a  rose  cross.  Granted,  the  red  cross  was 
subsequently  to  find  an  echo  in  the  blazon  of  the  Knights  Templar,  but 
the  import  of  the  text  in  the  Dossiers  secrets,  and  in  other  "Prieure 
documents',  is  unequivocally  clear.  One  is  intended  to  see  in  Ormus 
the  origins  of  the  so-called 

Rose-Croix,  or  Rosicrucians.  And  in  1 188  the  Prieure  de  Sion  is  said  to  have  adopted  a 
second  subtitle,  in  addition  to  "Ormus'.  It  is  said  to  have  called  itself  V'Ordre  de  la  Rose- 
Croix  Veritas. 

At  this  point  we  seemed  to  be  in  very  questionable  territory,  and  the  text  in  the  "Prieure 
documents'  began  to  appear  highly  suspect.  We  were  familiar  with  the  claims  of  the 
modern  "Rosicrucians'  in  California  and  other  contemporary  organisations,  who  claim  for 
themselves,  after  the  fact,  a  pedigree  harking  back  to  the  mists  of  antiquity  which  includes 
most  of  the  world's  great  men. 


113 


An  "Order  of  the  Rose-Croix'  dating  from  1 188  appeared  equally 

spurious. 

As  Frances  Yates  had  demonstrated  convincingly,  there  is  no  known 

evidence  of  any  "Rosicrucians'  (at  least  by  that  name)  before  the  early 

seventeenth  century  or  perhaps  the  last  years  of  the  sixteenth,  'z  The 

myth  surrounding  the  legendary  order  dates  from  approximately  1605,  and 

first  gained  impetus  a  decade  later  with  the  publication  of  three 

inflammatory  tracts.  These  tracts,  which  appeared  in  1614,  1615  and 

1616  respectively,  proclaimed  the  existence  of  a  secret  brotherhood  or 

confraternity  of  mystical  'initiates',  allegedly  founded  by  one 

Christian  Rosenkreuz  who,  it  was  maintained,  was  born  in  1378  and  died, 

at  the  hoary  age  of  106,  in  1484.  Christian  Rosenkreuz  and  his  secret 

confraternity  are  now  generally  acknowledged  to  have  been  fictitious  a 

hoax  of  sorts,  devised  for  some  purpose  no  one  has  yet  satisfactorily 

explained,  although  it  was  not  without  political  repercussions  at  the 

time.  Moreover,  the  author  of  one  of  the  three  tracts,  the  famous 

Chemical  Wedding  of  Christian  Rosenkreuz,  which  appeared  in  1616,  is 

now  known.  He  was  Johann  Valentin  Andrea,  a 

German  writer  and  theologian  living  in  Wurttemberg,  who  confessed  that  he  composed 

The  Chemical  Wedding  as  a  'ludibrium'  -  a  'joke',  or  perhaps  a  'comedy'  in  Dante's  and 

Balzac's  sense  of  the  word.  There  is  reason  to  believe  that  Andrea,  or  one  of  his 

associates,  composed  the  other  "Roiscrucian'  tracts  as  well;  and  it  is  to  this  source  that 

"Roiscrucianism',  as  it  evolved  and  as  one  thinks  of  it  today,  can  be  traced. 

If  the  "Prieure  documents'  were  accurate,  however,  we  would  have  to  reconsider,  and 

think  in  terms  of  something  other  than  a  seventeenth-century  hoax.  We  would  have  to 

think  in  terms  of  a  secret  order  or  society  that  actually  existed,  a  genuine  clandestine 

brotherhood  or  confraternity.  It  need  not  have  been  wholly  or  even  primarily  mystical.  It 

might  well  have  been  largely  political.  But  it  would  have  existed  a  full  425  years  before  its 

name  ever  became  public,  and  a  good  two  centuries  before  its  legendary  founder  is 

alleged  to  have  lived. 

Again  we  found  no  substantiating  evidence.  Certainly  the  rose  has  been 

a  mystical  symbol  from  time  immemorial,  and  enjoyed  a  particular  vogue 


114 


during  the  Middle  Ages  in  the  popular  Romance  of  the  Rose  by  jean  de 

Meung,  for  instance,  and  in  Dante's  Paradise  And  the  red  cross  was 

also  a  traditional  symbolic  motif.  Not  only  was  it  the  blazon  of  the 

Knights 

Templar.  It  subsequently  became  the  Cross  of  Saint  George  and,  as  such,  was  adopted 

by  the  Order  of  the  Garter  created  some  thirty  years  after  the  fall  of  the  Temple.  But 

though  roses  and  red  crosses  abounded  as  symbolic  motifs,  there  was  no  evidence  of  an 

institution  or  an  order,  still  less  of  a  secret  society. 

On  the  other  hand,  Frances  Yates  maintains  that  there  were  secret  societies  functioning 

long  before  the  seventeenth-century  "Rosicrucians'  and  that  these  earlier  societies  were, 

in  fact,  "Rosicrucian'  in  political  and  philosophical  orientation,  if  not  necessarily  in  name. 13 

Thus,  in  conversation  with  one  of  our  researchers,  she  described  Leonardo  as  a 

"Rosicrucian'  using  the  term  as  a  metaphor  to  define  his  values  and  attitudes. 

Not  only  that.  In  1629,  when  "Rosicrucian'  interest  in  Europe  was  at 

its  zenith,  a  man  named  Robert  Denyau,  cure  of  Gisors,  composed  an 

exhaustive  history  of  Gisors  and  the  Gisors  family.  In  this  manuscript 

Denyau  states  explicitly  that  the  Rose-Croix  was  founded  by  jean  de 

Gisors  in  1 1 88.  In  other  words  there  is  a  verbatim  seventeenth-century 

confirmation  of  the  claims  made  by  the  "Prieure  documents'.  Granted, 

Denyau's  manuscript  was  composed  some  four  and  a  half  centuries  after 

the  alleged  fact.  But  it  constitutes  an  extremely  important  fragment 

of  evidence.  And  the  fact  that  it  issues  from  Gisors  renders  it  all 

the  more  important.  '4 

We  were  left,  however,  with  no  confirmation,  only  a  possibility.  But  in  every  respect  so  far 

the  "Prieure  documents'  had  proved  astonishingly  accurate.  Thus  it  would  have  been  rash 

to  dismiss  them  out  of  hand.  We  were  not  prepared  to  accept  them  on  blind, 

unquestioning  faith.  But  we  did  feel  obliged  to  reserve  judgment. 

The  Prieure  at  Orleans 

In  addition  to  their  more  grandiose  claims,  the  "Prieure  documents' 

offered  information  of  a  very  different  kind,  minutiae  so  apparently 

trivial  and  inconsequential  that  their  significance  eluded  us.  At  the 


115 


same  time  the  sheer  un  importance  of  this  information  argued  in  favour 

of  its  veracity.  Quite  simply  there  seemed  to  be  no  point  in  inventing  or  concocting  such 

minor  details.  And  what  was  more,  the  authenticity  of  many  of  these  details  could  be 

confirmed. 

Thus,  for  example,  Girard,  abbot  of  the  'little  priory'  at  Orleans 

between  1 239  and  1 244.  is  said  to  have  ceded  a  tract  of  land  at  Acre 

to  the 

Teutonic  Knights.  Why  this  should  warrant  mention  is  unclear,  but  it  can  be  definitively 

established.  The  actual  charter  exists,  dating  from  1239  and  bearing  Girard's  signature. 

Information  of  a  similar,  albeit  more  suggestive,  kind  is  offered  on  an  abbot  named  Adam, 

who  presided  over  the  "little  priory'  at  Orleans  in  1 281 . 

In  that  year,  according  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  Adam  ceded  a  tract 

of  land  near  Orval  to  the  monks  then  occupying  the  abbey  there 

-Cistercians,  who  had  moved  in  under  the  aegis  of  Saint  Bernard  a  century  and  a 
half  before.   We  could  not  find  written  evidence  of  this  particular  transaction, 
but  it  would  seem  plausible  enough  there  are  charters  attesting  tO  numerous  Other 

transactions  of  the  same  nature. 
What  makes  this  one  interesting,  of  course,  is  the  recurrence  of  Orval, 
which  had  figured  earlier  in  our  inquiry.  Moreover,  the  tract  of  land 
in  question  would  seem  to  have  been  of  special  import,  for  the  "Prieure 
documents'  tell  us  that 

Adam  incurred  the  wrath  of  the  brethren  of  Sion  for  his  donation  so 
much  so  that  he  was  apparently  compelled  to  renounce  his  position.  The 
act  of  abdication,  according  to  the  Dossiers  secrets,  was  formally 
witnessed  by 

Thomas  de  Sainville,  Grand  Master  of  the  Order  of  Saint  Lazarus. 
Immediately  afterwards  Adam  is  said  to  have  gone  to  Acre,  then  to  have  fled  the  city  when 
it  fell  to  the  Saracens  and  to  have  died  in  Sicily  in  1 291 . 
Again  we  could  not  find  the  actual  charter  of  abdication.  But  Thomas 
de 

Sainville  was  Grand  Master  of  the  Order  of  Saint  Lazarus  in  1281 ,  and  the  headquarters 
of  Saint  Lazarus  were  near  Orleans  where  Adam's  abdication  would  have  taken  place. 
And  there  is  no  question  that  Adam  went  to  Acre. 
Two  proclamations  and  two  letters  were  in  fact  signed  by  him  there,  the 


116 


first  dated  August  1 281  ,"5  the  second  March  1 289. "6  The  "Head'  of  the 

Templars 

According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  the  Prieure  de  Sion  was  not,  strictly  speaking,  a 

perpetuation  or  continuation  of  the  Order  of  the  Temple:  on  the  contrary,  the  text  stresses 

emphatically  that  the  separation  between  the  two  orders  dates  from  the  'cutting  of  the  elm' 

in  1 188.  Apparently,  however,  some  kind  of  rapport  continued  to  exist,  and,  "in  1307, 

Guillaume  de  Gisors  received  the  golden  head,  Caput  LVIII  Fa  from  the  Order  of  the 

Temple."" 

Our  investigation  of  the  Templars  had  already  acquainted  us  with  this  mysterious  head. 

To  link  it  with  Sion,  however,  and  with  the  seemingly  important  Gisors  family,  again  struck 

us  as  dubious  as  if  the  "Prieure  documents'  were  straining  to  make  powerful  and 

evocative  connections. 

And  yet  it  was  precisely  on  this  point  that  we  found  some  of  our  most 

solid  and  intriguing  confirmation.  According  to  the  official  records 

of  the 

Inquisition: 

The  guardian  and  administrator  of  the  goods  of  the  Temple  at  Paris,  after  the  arrests,  was 

a  man  of  the  King  named  Guillaume  Pidoye. 

Before  the 

Inquisitors  on  May  1 1th,  1308,  he  declared  that  at  the  time  of  the 

arrest  of  the  Knights  Templar,  he,  together  with  his  colleague 

Guillaume  de  Gisors  and  one  Raynier  Bourdon,  had  been  ordered  to 

present  to  the  Inquisition  all  the  figures  of  metal  or  wood  they  had 

found.  Among  the  goods  of  the  Temple  they  had  found  a  large  head  of 

silver  gilt ..  .  the  image  of  a  woman,  which 

Guillaume,  on  May  11th,  presented  before  the  Inquisition.  The  head 

carried  a  label,  "CAPUT  LVIIIm'."8 

If  the  head  continued  to  baffle  us,  the  context  in  which  Guillaume  de 

Gisors  appeared  was  equally  perplexing.  He  is  specifically  cited  as 

being  a  colleague  of  Guillaume  Pidoye,  one  of  King  Philippe's  men.  In 

other  words  he,  like  Philippe,  would  seem  to  have  been  hostile  to  the 

Templars  and  participated  in  the  attack  upon  them.  According  to  the 

"Prieure  documents',  however,  Guillaume  was  Grand  Master  of  the  Prieure 

de  Sion  at  the  time.  Did  this  mean  that  Sion  endorsed  Philippe's 

action  against  the  Temple,  perhaps  even  collaborated  in  it?  There  are 


117 


certain  "Prieure  documents'  which  hint  that  this  may  have  been  the 

case  that  Sion,  in  some  unspecified  way,  authorised  and  presided  over 

the  dissolution  of  its  unruly  proteges.  On  the  other  hand,  the 

"Prieure  documents'  also  imply  that 

Sion  exercised  a  kind  of  paternal  protectiveness  towards  at  least 

certain 

Templars  during  the  Order's  last  days.  If  this  is  true,  Guillaume  de  Gisors  might  well  have 

been  a  'double-agent'.  He  might  well  have  been  responsible  for  the  'leak'  of  Philippe's 

plans,  the  means  whereby  the  Templars  received  advance  warning  of  the  king's 

machinations  against  them.  If,  after  the  formal  separation  in  1 1 88,  Sion  did  in  fact 

continue  to  exercise  some  clandestine  control  over  Temple  affairs,  Guillaume  de  Gisors 

might  have  been  partially  responsible  for  the  careful  destruction  of  the  Order's  documents 

and  the  unexplained  disappearance  of  its  treasure. 

The  Grand  Masters  of  the  Templars 

In  addition  to  the  fragmentary  information  discussed  above,  the  text  in 

the 

Dossiers  secrets  includes  three  lists  of  names.  The  first  of  these  is  straightforward 

enough  -the  least  interesting,  and  the  least  open  to  controversy  or  doubt,  being  merely  a 

list  of  abbots  who  presided  over  Sion's  lands  in  Palestine  between  1 1 52  and  1 281 .  Our 

research  confirmed  its  veracity:  it  appears  elsewhere,  independent  of  the  Dossiers 

secrets,  and  in  accessible,  unimpugnable  sources. "9  The  lists  in  these  sources  agree  with 

that  in  the  Dossiers  secrets,  except  that  two  names  are  missing  in  the  sources.  In  this 

case,  then,  the  "Prieure  documents'  not  only  agree  with  verifiable  history,  but  are  more 

comprehensive  in  that  they  fill  certain  lacunae. 

The  second  list  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  is  a  list  of  the  Grand  Masters 

of  the  Knights  Templar  from  1118  until  1 1 90  in  other  words,  from  the 

Temple's  public  foundation  until  its  separation  from  Sion  and  the  'cutting  of  the  elm'  at 

Gisors.  At  first  there  seemed  nothing  unusual  or  extraordinary  about  this  list.  When  we 

compared  it  to  other  lists,  however  those  cited  by  acknowledged  historians  writing  on  the 

Templars,  for  instance  certain  obvious  discrepancies  quickly  emerged. 


118 


According  to  virtually  all  other  known  lists,  there  were  ten  Grand 

Masters  between  1118  and  1 190.  According  to  the  Dossiers  secrets, 

there  were  only  eight.  According  to  most  other  lists,  Andre  de 

Montbard  Saint  Bernard's  uncle  was  not  only  a  co-founder  of  the  Order, 

but  also  its 

Grand  Master  between  1 153  and  1 156.  According  to  the  Dossiers  secrets,  however, 

Andre  was  never  Grand  Master,  but  would  seem  to  have  continued  functioning  as  he  does 

all  through  his  career  behind  the  scenes.  According  to  most  other  lists,  Bertrand  de 

Blanchefort  appears  as  sixth  Grand  Master  of  the  Temple,  assuming  his  office  after  Andre 

de  Montbard,  in  1156. 

According  to  the  Dossiers  secrets,  Bertrand  is  not  sixth,  but  fourth  in  succession, 

becoming  Grand  Master  in  1153.  There  were  other  such  discrepancies  and 

contradictions,  and  we  were  uncertain  what  to  make  of  them  or  how  seriously  to  take 

them.  Because  it  disagreed  with  those  compiled  by  established  historians,  were  we  to 

regard  the  list  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  as  wrong? 

It  must  be  emphasised  that  no  official  or  definitive  list  of  the 

Temple's 

Grand  Masters  exists.  Nothing  of  the  sort  has  been  preserved  or  handed  down  to 

posterity.  The  Temple's  own  records  were  destroyed  or  disappeared,  and  the  earliest 

known  compilation  of  the  Order's  Grand  Masters  dates  from  1342  thirty  years  after  the 

Order  itself  was  suppressed,  and  225  years  after  its  foundation.  As  a  result  historians 

compiling  lists  of  Grand  Masters  have  based  their  findings  on  contemporary  chroniclers  - 

on  a  man  writing  in  1 170,  for  example,  who  makes  a  passing  allusion  to  one  or  another 

individual  as  "Master'  or  "Grand  Master'  of  the  Temple.  And  additional  evidence  can  be 

obtained  by  examining  documents  and  charters  of  the  period,  in  which  one  or  another 

Templar  official  would  append  one  or  another  title  to  his  signature.  It  is  thus  hardly 

surprising  that  the  sequence  and  dating  of  Grand  Masters  should  engender  considerable 

uncertainty  and  confusion. 

Nor  is  it  surprising  that  sequence  and  dating  should  vary,  sometimes  dramatically,  from 

writer  to  writer,  account  to  account. 

Nevertheless,  there  were  certain  crucial  details  like  those  summarised 

above  in  which  the  "Prieure  documents'  deviated  significantly  from  all 

other  sources.  We  could  not,  therefore,  ignore  such  deviations.  We 


119 


had  to  determine,  as  far  as  we  could,  whether  the  list  in  the  Dossiers 

secrets  was  based  on  sloppiness,  ignorance  or  both;  or,  alternatively, 

whether  this  list  was  indeed  the  definitive  one,  based  on  "inside' 

information,  inaccessible  to  historians.  If  Sion  did  create  the 

Knights  Templar,  and  if  Sion  (or  at  least  its  records)  did  survive  to  the  present  day,  we 

could  reasonably  expect  it  to  be  privy  to  details  unobtainable  elsewhere. 

Most  of  the  discrepancies  between  the  list  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  and  those  in  other 

sources  can  be  explained  fairly  easily.  At  this  point,  it  is  not  worth  exploring  each  such 

discrepancy  and  accounting  for  it. 

But  a  single  example  should  serve  to  illustrate  how  and  why  such 

discrepancies  might  occur.  In  addition  to  the  Grand  Master,  the  Temple 

had  a  multitude  of  local  masters  a  master  for  England,  for  Normandy, 

for  Aquitaine,  for  all  the  territories  comprising  its  domains.  There 

was  also  an  overall  European  master,  and,  it  would  appear,  a  maritime 

master  as  well.  In  documents  and  charters  these  local  or  regional 

masters  would  invariably  sign  themselves 

"Magister  Templi'  -  "Master  of  the  Temple'.  And  on  most  occasions  the 

Grand 

Master  -through  modesty,  carelessness,  indifference  or  slapdash 

insouciance  would  also  sign  himself  as  nothing  more  than  "Magister 

Templi'.  In  other  words  Andre  de  Montbard,  regional  Master  of 

Jerusalem,  would,  on  a  charter,  have  the  same  designation  after  his 

name  as  the  Grand  Master,  Bertrand  de 

Blanchefort. 

It  is  thus  not  difficult  to  see  how  an  historian,  working  with  one  or 

two  charters  alone  and  not  cross-checking  his  references,  might  readily 

misconstrue  Andre's  true  status  in  the  Order.  By  virtue  of  precisely 

this  kind  of  error,  many  lists  of  Templar  Grand  Masters  include  a  man 

named 

Everard  des  Barres.  But  the  Grand  Master,  by  the  Temple's  own 

constitutions,  had  to  be  elected  by  a  general  chapter  in  Jerusalem  and 

had  to  reside  there.  Our  research  revealed  that  Everard  des  Barres  was 

a  regional  master,  elected  and  resident  in  France,  who  did  not  set  foot 

in  the  Holy  Land  until  much  later.  On  this  basis  he  could  be  excised 

from  the  list  of  Grand  Masters  as  indeed  he  was  in  the  Dossiers 

secrets.  It  was  specifically  on  such  academic  fine  points  that  the 

"Prieure  documents'  displayed  a  meticulous  accuracy  and  precision  we 


120 


could  not  imagine  being  contrived  after  the  fact.  We  spent  more  than 

a  year  considering  and  comparing  various  lists  of 

Templar  Grand  Masters.  We  consulted  all  writers  on  the  Order,  in 

English, 

French  and  German,  and  then  checked  their  sources  as  well.  We  examined  the 

chronicles  of  the  time  like  those  of  Guillaume  de  Tyre  -and  other  contemporary  accounts. 

We  consulted  all  the  charters  we  could  find  and  obtained  comprehensive  information  on 

all  those  known  to  be  still  extant. 

We  compared  signatories  and  titles  on  numerous  proclamations,  edicts, 

deeds  and  other  Templar  documents.  As  a  result  of  this  exhaustive 

inquiry,  it  became  apparent  that  the  list  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  was 

more  accurate  than  any  other  not  only  on  the  identity  of  the  Grand 

Masters,  but  on  the  dates  of  their  respective  regimes  as  well.  If  a 

definitive  list  of  the 

Temple's  Grand  Masters  did  exist,  it  was  in  the  Dossiers  secrets. z 

The  accuracy  of  this  list  was  not  only  important  in  itself.  The  implications  attending  it  were 

much  broader.  Granted,  such  a  list  might  perhaps  have  been  compiled  by  an  extremely 

careful  researcher,  but  the  task  would  have  been  monumental.  It  seemed  much  more 

likely  to  us  that  a  list  of  such  accuracy  attested  to  some  repository  of  privileged  or  'inside' 

information  information  hitherto  inaccessible  to  historians. 

Whether  our  conclusion  was  warranted  or  not,  we  were  confronted  by  one  indisputable 

fact  someone  had  obtained  access,  somehow,  to  a  list  which  was  more  accurate  than  any 

other.  And  since  that  list  despite  its  divergence  from  others  more  accepted  proved  so 

frequently  to  be  correct,  it  lent  considerable  credibility  to  the  "Prieure  documents'  as  a 

whole.  If  the  Dossiers  secrets  were  demonstrably  reliable  in  this  critical  respect,  there 

was  somewhat  less  reason  to  doubt  them  in  others. 

Such  reassurance  was  both  timely  and  necessary.  Without  it,  we  might 

well  have  dismissed  the  third  list  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  the  Grand 

Masters  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  out  of  hand.  For  this  third  list,  even 


121 


at  a  cursory  glance,  seemed  absurd.  6  The  Grand  Masters  and  the 

Underground  Stream 

In  the  Dossiers  secrets,"  the  following  individuals  are  listed  as  successive  Grand  Masters 

of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  or,  to  use  the  official  term,  "Nautonnier',  an  old  French  word  which 

means  'navigator'  or  'helmsman': 

JeandeGisors  1188-1220 

Marie  de  Saint-Clair  1220-66 

Guillaume  de  Gisors  1266-1307 

Edouardde  Bar  1307-36 

Jeanne  de  Bar  1336-51 

Jean  de  Saint-Clair  1351-66 

Blanche  d'Evreux  1366-98 

Nicolas  Flamel  1398-1418 

Rened'Anjou  1418-80 

lolandede  Bar  1480-83 

Sandro  Filipepi  1483-1510 

Leonard  de  Vinci  1510-19 

Connetable  de  Bourbon  1519-27 

Ferdinand  de  Gonzague  1527-75 

Louis  de  Nevers  1575-95 

Robert  Fludd  1595-1637 

J.  Valentin  Andrea  1637-54 

Robert  Boyle  1654-91 

Isaac  Newton  1691-1727 

Charles  Radclyffe  1727-46 

Charles  de  Lorraine  1746-80 

Maximilian  de  Lorraine  1780-1801 

Charles  Nodier  1801-44 

Victor  Hugo  1844-85 

Claude  Debussy  1885-1918 

Jean  Cocteau  1918  When  we  first  saw  this  list,  it  immediately  provoked 

our  scepticism.  On  the  one  hand  it  includes  a  number  of  names  which 

one  would  automatically  expect  to  find  on  such  a  list  names  of  famous 


122 


individuals  associated  with  the  'occult'  and  'esoteric'.  On  the  other 

hand  it  includes  a  number  of  illustrious  and  improbable  names  individuals  whom,  in  certain 

cases,  we  could  not  imagine  presiding  over  a  secret  society.  At  the  same  time,  many  of 

these  latter  names  are  precisely  the  kind  that  twentieth-century  organisations  have  often 

attempted  to  appropriate  for  themselves,  thus  establishing  a  species  of  spurious 

'pedigree'.  There  are,  for  example,  lists  published  by  AMORC,  the  modern  "Rosicrucians' 

based  in  California,  which  include  virtually  every  important  figure  in  Western  history  and 

culture  whose  values,  even  if  only  tangentially,  happened  to  coincide  with  the  Order's 

own. 

An  often  haphazard  overlap  or  convergence  of  attitudes  is  deliberately 

misconstrued  as  something  tantamount  to  'initiated  membership'.  And 

thus  one  is  told  that 

Dante,  Shakespeare,  Goethe  and  innumerable  others  were  "Rosicrucians'  implying  that 

they  were  card-carrying  members  who  paid  their  dues  regularly. 

Our  initial  attitude  towards  the  above  list  was  equally  cynical.  Again,  there  are  the 

predictable  names  -names  associated  with  the  'occult'  and  'esoteric'.  Nicolas  Flamel,  for 

instance,  is  perhaps  the  most  famous  and  well  documented  of  medieval  alchemists. 

Robert  Fludd,  seventeenth-century  philosopher,  was  an  exponent  of  Hermetic  thought  and 

other  arcane  subjects. 

Johann  Valentin  Andrea,  German  contemporary  of  Fludd,  composed,  among 

other  things,  some  of  the  works  which  spawned  the  myth  of  the  fabulous 

Christian 

Rosenkreuz.  And  there  are  also  names  like  Leonardo  da  Vinci  and 

Sandro 

Filipepi,  who  is  better  known  as  Botticelli.  There  are  names  of  distinguished  scientists, 

like  Robert  Boyle  and  Sir  Isaac  Newton. 

During  the  last  two  centuries  the  Prieure  de  Sion's  Grand  Masters  are 

alleged  to  have  included  such  important  literary  and  cultural  figures 

as  Victor  Hugo, 

Claude  Debussy  and  Jean  Cocteau. 

By  including  such  names,  the  list  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  could  not  but 

appear  suspect.  It  was  almost  inconceivable  that  some  of  the 

individuals  cited  had  presided  over  a  secret  society  and  still  more,  a 

secret  society  devoted  to  'occult'  and  'esoteric'  interests.  Boyle  and 

Newton,  for  example,  are  hardly  names  that  people  in  the  twentieth 

century  associate  with  the  'occult'  and  'esoteric'.  And  though  Hugo, 


123 


Debussy  and  Cocteau  were  immersed  in  such  matters,  they  would  seem  to 

be  too  well  known,  too  well  researched  and  documented,  to  have  exercised  a  "Grand 

Mastership'  over  a  secret  order.  Not,  at  any  rate,  without  some  word  of  it  somehow 

leaking  out. 

On  the  other  hand  the  distinguished  names  are  not  the  only  names  on  the 

list.  Most  of  the  other  names  belong  to  high-ranking  European  nobles, 

many  of  whom  are  extremely  obscure  unfamiliar  not  only  to  the  general 

reader,  but  even  to  the  professional  historian.  There  is  Guillaume  de 

Gisors,  for  instance,  who  in  1306  is  said  to  have  organised  the  Prieure 

de  Sion  into  an  'hermetic  freemasonry'.  And  there  is  Guillaume's 

grandfather,  jean  de 

Gisors,  who  is  said  to  have  been  Sion's  first  independent  Grand  Master, 

assuming  his  position  after  the  "cutting  of  the  elm'  and  the  separation 

from  the  Temple  in  1 188.  There  is  no  question  that  Jean  de  Gisors 

existed  historically.  He  was  born  in  1 133  and  died  in  1220.  He  is 

mentioned  in  charters  and  was  at  least  nominal  lord  of  the  famous 

fortress  in  Normandy  where  meetings  traditionally  convened  between 

English  and  French  kings  took  place,  as  did  the  cutting  of  the  elm  in 

1 188.  Jean  seems  to  have  been  an  extremely  powerful  and  wealthy 

landowner  and  until  1 193,  a  vassal  of  the  king  of  England.  He  is  also 

known  to  have  possessed  property  in  England  in  Sussex,  and  the  manor  of 

Titchfield  in  Hampshire. z  According  to  the 

Dossiers  secrets,  he  met  Thomas  a  Becket  at  Gisors  in  1 169  though  there  is  no  indication 

of  the  purpose  of  this  meeting.  We  were  able  to  confirm  that  Becket  was  indeed  at  Gisors 

in  1 169,3  and  it  is  therefore  probable  that  he  had  some  contact  with  the  lord  of  the 

fortress;  but  we  could  find  no  record  of  any  actual  encounter  between  the  two  men. 

In  short,  jean  de  Gisors,  apart  from  a  few  bland  details,  proved  virtually  untraceable.  He 

seemed  to  have  left  no  mark  whatever  on  history,  save  his  existence  and  his  title.  We 

could  find  no  indication  of  what  he  did  what  might  have  constituted  his  claim  to  fame,  or 

have  warranted  his  assumption  of  Sion's  Grand  Mastership.  If  the  list  of  Sion's  purported 

Grand  Masters  was  authentic,  what,  we  wondered,  did  Jean  do  to  earn  his  place  on  it? 

And  if  the  list  were  a  latter-day  fabrication,  why  should  someone  so  obscure  be  included  at 

all? 


124 


There  seemed  to  us  only  one  possible  explanation  135  which  did  not 

really  explain  very  much  in  fact.  Like  the  other  aristocratic  names  on  the  list  of  Sion's 

Grand  Masters,  jean  de  Gisors  appeared  in  the  complicated  genealogies  which  figured 

elsewhere  in  the  "Prieure  documents'. 

Together  with  those  other  elusive  nobles,  he  apparently  belonged  to  the 

same  dense  forest  of  family  trees  ultimately  descended,  supposedly, 

from  the 

Merovingian  dynasty.  It  thus  seemed  evident  to  us  that  the  Prieure  de 

Sion  to  a  significant  extent,  at  least  was  a  domestic  affair.  In  some 

way  the 

Order  appeared  to  be  intimately  associated  with  a  bloodline  and  a  lineage. 

And  it  was  their  connection  with  this  bloodline  or  lineage  that  perhaps  accounted  for  the 

various  titled  names  on  the  list  of  Grand  Masters. 

From  the  list  quoted  above,  it  would  seem  that  Sion's  Grand  Mastership  has  recurrently 

shifted  between  two  essentially  distinct  groups  of  individuals. 

On  the  one  hand  there  are  the  figures  of  monumental  stature  who  through  esoterica,  the 

arts  or  sciences  have  produced  some  impact  on  Western  tradition,  history  and  culture.  On 

the  other  hand,  there  are  members  of  a  specific  and  interlinked  network  of  families  noble, 

and  sometimes  royal. 

In  some  degree  this  curious  juxtaposition  imparted  plausibility  to  the  list.  If  one  merely 

wished  to  'concoct  a  pedigree',  there  would  be  no  point  in  including  so  many  unknown  or 

long-forgotten  aristocrats. 

There  would  be  no  point,  for  instance,  in  including  a  man  like  Charles 

de  Lorraine  Austrian  field-marshal  in  the  eighteenth  century, 

brother-in-law  to  the 

Empress  Maria  Theresa,  who  proved  himself  signally  inept  on  the 

battlefield  and  was  trounced  in  one  engagement  after  another  by 

Frederick  the  Great  of 

Prussia. 

In  this  respect,  at  least,  the  Prieure  de  Sion  would  seem  to  be  both  modest  and  realistic. 

It  does  not  claim  to  have  functioned  under  the  auspices  of  unqualified  geniuses, 

superhuman  "masters',  illumined  "initiates',  saints,  sages  or  immortals.  On  the  contrary,  it 

acknowledges  its  Grand  Masters  to  have  been  fallible  human  beings,  a  representative 

cross-section  of  humanity  -  a  few  geniuses,  a  few  notables,  a  few  "average  specimens',  a 

few  nonentities,  even  a  few  fools. 

Why,  we  could  not  but  wonder,  would  a  forged  or  fabricated  list  include 


125 


such  a  spectrum?  If  one  wishes  to  contrive  a  list  of  Grand  Masters, 

why  not  make  all  the  names  on  it  illustrious?  If  one  wishes  to 

"concoct  a  pedigree'  which  includes  Leonardo, 

Newton  and  Victor  Hugo,  why  not  also  include  Dante,  Michelangelo, 

Goethe  and 

Tolstoi  instead  of  obscure  people  like  Edouard  de  Bar  and  Maximilian 

de 

Lorraine?  Why,  moreover,  were  there  so  many  'lesser  lights'  on  the  list?  Why  a  relatively 

minor  writer  like  Charles  Nodier,  rather  than  contemporaries  like  Byron  or  Pushkin?  Why 

an  apparent'  eccentric  like  Cocteau  rather  than  men  of  such  international  prestige  as 

Andre  Gide  or  Albert  Camus?  And  why  the  omission  of  individuals  like  Poussin,  whose 

connection  with  the  mystery  had  already  been  established?  Such  questions  nagged  at  us, 

and  argued  that  the  list  warranted  consideration  before  we  dismissed  it  as  an  arrant  fraud. 

We  therefore  embarked  on  a  lengthy  and  detailed  study  of  the  alleged 

Grand 

Masters  their  biographies,  activities  and  accomplishments.  In  conducting  this  study  we 

tried,  as  far  as  we  could,  to  subject  each  name  on  the  list  to  certain  critical  questions: 

1)     Was  there  any  personal  contact,  direct  or  indirect,  between  each  alleged 

Grand  Master,  his  immediate  predecessor  and  immediate  successor?  2) 

Was  there  any  affiliation,  by  blood  or  otherwise,  between  each 

alleged 

Grand  Master  and  the  families  who  figured  in  the  genealogies  of  the 

"Prieure  documents'  with  any  of  the  families  of  purported  Merovingian 

descent,  and  especially  the  ducal  house  of  Lorraine?  3)  Was  each 

alleged  Grand  Master  in  any  way  connected  with 

Rennes-leChateau,  Gisors,  Stenay,  Saint  Sulpice  or  any  of  the  other  sites  that  had 

recurred  in  the  course  of  our  previous  investigation?  4) 

If  Sion  defined  itself  as  an  "Hermetic  freemasonry',  did  each  alleged 

Grand  Master  display  a  predisposition  towards  Hermetic  thought  or  an  involvement  with 

secret  societies? 

Although  information  on  the  alleged  Grand  Masters  before  1400  was 

difficult,  sometimes  impossible  to  obtain,  our  investigation  of  the 

later  figures  yield  some  astonishing  results  and  consistency.  Many  of 

them  were  associated,  in  one  way  or  another,  with  one  or  more  of  the 


126 


sites  that  seemed  to  be  relevant  Rennes-leChateau,  Gisors,  Stenay  or 

Saint  Sulpice.  Most  of  the  names  on  the  list  were  either  allied  by 

blood  to  the  house  of  Lorraine  or  associated  with  it  in  some  other 

fashion;  even  Robert  Fludd,  for  example,  served  as  tutor  to  the  sons  of 

the  duke  of  Lorraine.  From  Nicolas  Flamel  on,  every  name  on  the  list, 

without  exception,  was  steeped  in  Hermetic  thought,  and  often  also 

associated  with  secret  societies  even  men  whom  one  would  not  readily 

associate  with  such  things,  like  Boyle  and  Newton.  And  with  only  one 

exception,  each  alleged 

Grand  Master  had  some  contact  sometimes  direct,  sometimes  through  close 

mutual  friends  with  those  who  preceded  and  succeeded  him.  As  far  as  we 

could  determine,  there  was  only  one  apparent  'break  in  the  chain'.  And 

even  this  which  seems  to  have  occurred  around  the  French  Revolution, 

between 

Maximilian  of  Lorraine  and  Charles  Nodier  is  not  by  any  means  conclusive. 

In  the  context  of  this  chapter  it  is  not  feasible  to  discuss  each 

alleged 

Grand  Master  in  detail.  Some  of  the  more  obscure  figures  assume  significance  only 

against  the  background  of  a  given  age,  and  to  explain  this  significance  fully  would  entail 

lengthy  digressions  into  forgotten  byways  of  history.  In  the  case  of  the  more  famous 

names,  it  would  be  impossible  to  do  them  justice  in  a  few  pages.  In  consequence  the 

relevant  biographical  material  on  the  alleged  Grand  Masters  and  the  connections  between 

them  have  been  consigned  to  an  appendix  (see  pp.  441-65).  The  present  chapter  will 

dwell  on  broader  social  and  cultural  developments,  in  which  a  succession  of  alleged 

Grand  Masters  played  a  collective  part.  It  was  in  such  social  and  cultural  developments 

that  our  research  seemed  to  yield  a  discernible  trace  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion's  hand. 

Rene  d'Anjou 

Although  little  known  today,  Rene  d'Anjou  -  "Good  King  Rene'  as  he  was 

the  years  immediately  preceding  the  Renaissance.  Born  in  1408,  during 

his  life  he  came  to  hold  an  awesome  array  of  titles.  Among  the  most 

important  were  count  of  Bar,  count  of  Provence,  count  of  Piedmont, 


127 


count  of  Guise,  duke  of  Calabria,  duke  of  Anjou,  duke  of  Lorraine, 

king  of  Hungary,  king  of  Naples  and  Sicily,  king  of 

Aragon,  Valencia,  Majorca  and  Sardinia  -and,  perhaps  most  resonant  of  all,  king  of 

Jerusalem.  This  last  was,  of  course,  purely  titular. 

Nevertheless  it  invoked  a  continuity  extending  back  to  Godfroi  de 

Bouillon,  and  was  acknowledged  by  other  European  potentates.  One  of 

Rene's  daughters, 

Marguerite  d'Anjou,  in  1445  married  Henry  VI  of  England  and  played  a  prominent  role  in 

the  Wars  of  the  Roses. 

In  its  earlier  phases  Rene  d'Anjou's  career  seems  to  have  been  in  some 

obscure  way  associated  with  that  of  Jeanne  d'Arc.  As  far  as  is 

known, 

Jeanne  was  born  in  the  town  of  Domremy,  in  the  duchy  of  Bar,  making 

her 

Rene's  subject.  She  first  impressed  herself  on  history  in  1429,  when 

she  appeared  at  the  fortress  of  Vaucouleurs,  a  few  miles  up  the  Meuse 

from 

Domremy.  Presenting  herself  to  the  commandant  of  the  fortress,  she  announced  her 

'divine  mission'  to  save  France  from  the  English  invaders  and  ensure  that  the  dauphin, 

subsequently  Charles  VII,  was  crowned  king.  In  order  to  perform  this  mission,  she  would 

have  had  to  join  the  dauphin  at  his  court  at  Chinon,  on  the  Loire,  far  to  the  south-west. 

But  she  did  not  request  a  passage  to  Chinon  of  the  commandant  at  Vaucouleurs;  she 

requested  a  special  audience  with  the  duke  of  Lorraine  Rene's  father-in-law  and  great 

uncle. 

In  deference  to  her  request,  Jeanne  was  granted  an  audience  with  the 

duke  at  his  capital  in  Nancy.  When  she  arrived  there,  Rene  d'Anjou  is 

known  to  have  been  present.  And  when  the  duke  of  Lorraine  asked  her 

what  she  wished,  she  replied  explicitly,  in  words  that  have  constantly 

perplexed  historians,  "Your  son  fin-law],  a  horse  and  some  good  men  to 

take  me  into  France  '.4 

Both  at  the  time  and  later,  speculation  was  rife  about  the  nature  of 

Rene's  connection  with  Jeanne.  According  to  some  sources,  probably 

inaccurate,  the  two  were  lovers.  But  the  fact  remains  that  they  knew 

each  other,  and  that 

Rene  was  present  when  Jeanne  first  embarked  on  her  mission.  Moreover, 

contemporary  chroniclers  maintain  that  when  Jeanne  departed  for  the 

Dauphin's  court  at  Chinon,  Rene  accompanied  her.  And  not  only  that. 

The  same  chroniclers  assert  that  Rene  was  actually  present  at  her  side 

during  the  siege  of  Orleans."  In  the  centuries  that  followed  a 


128 


systematic  attempt  seems  to  have  been  made  to  expunge  all  trace  of 

Rene's  possible  role  in  Jeanne's  life.  Yet  Rene's  later  biographers  cannot  account  for  his 

whereabouts  or  activities  between  1429  and  1431  the  apex  of  Jeanne's  career.  It  is 

usually  and  tacitly  assumed  that  he  was  vegetating  at  the  ducal  court  in  Nancy,  but  there 

is  no  evidence  to  support  this  assumption. 

Circumstances  argue  that  Rene  did  accompany  Jeanne  to  Chinon.  For  if 

there  was  any  one  dominant  personality  at  Chinon  at  the  time,  that 

personality  was  lolande  d'Anjou.  It  was  lolande  who  provided  the 

febrile,  weak  willed  dauphin  with  incessant  transfusions  of  morale.  It 

was  lolande  who  inexplicably  appointed  herself  Jeanne's  official 

patroness  and  sponsor.  It  was  lolande  who  overcame  the  court's 

resistance  to  the  visionary  girl  and  obtained  authorisation  for  her  to 

accompany  the  army  to  Orleans.  It  was 

lolande  who  convinced  the  dauphin  that  Jeanne  might  indeed  be  the  saviour  she  claimed 

to  be.  It  was  lolande  who  contrived  the  dauphin's  marriage  to  her  own  daughter.  And 

lolande  was  Rene  d'Anjou's  mother. 

As  we  studied  these  details,  we  became  increasingly  convinced,  like 

many  modern  historians,  that  something  was  being  enacted  behind  the 

scenes  some  intricate,  high-level  intrigue,  or  audacious  design.  The 

more  we  examined  it,  the  more  Jeanne  d'Arc's  meteoric  career  began  to 

suggest  a  'put-  up  job'  as  if  someone,  exploiting  popular  legends  of  a 

'virgin  from 

Lorraine'  and  playing  ingeniously  on  mass  psychology,  had  engineered  and  orchestrated 

the  Maid  of  Orleans's  so-called  mission.  This  did  not,  of  course,  presuppose  the 

existence  of  a  secret  society.  But  it  rendered  the  existence  of  such  a  society  decidedly 

more  plausible.  And  if  such  a  society  did  exist,  the  man  presiding  over  it  might  well  have 

been,  Rene  d'Anjou. 

Rene  and  the  Theme  of  Arcadia 

If  Rene  was  associated  with  Jeanne  d'Arc,  his  later  career,  for  the 

most  part,  was  distinctly  less  bellicose.  Unlike  many  of  his 

contemporaries,  Rene  was  less  a  warrior  than  a  courtier.  In  this 

respect  he  was  misplaced  in  his  own  age;  he  was,  in  short,  a  man  ahead 


129 


of  his  time,  anticipating  the  cultured  Italian  princes  of  the 

Renaissance.  An  extremely  literate  person,  he  wrote  prolifically  and  illuminated  his  own 

books.  He  composed  poetry  and  mystical  allegories,  as  well  as  compendiums  of 

tournament  rules.  He  sought  to  promote  the  advancement  of  knowledge  and  at  one  time 

employed  Christopher  Columbus.  He  was  steeped  in  esoteric  tradition,  and  his  court 

included  a  Jewish  astrologer,  Cabalist  and  physician  known  as  jean  de  Saint-Remy. 

According  to  a  number  of  accounts,  Jean  de  Saint-Remy  was  the  grandfather  of 

Nostradamus,  the  famous  sixteenth-century  prophet  who  was  also  to  figure  in  our  story. 

Rene's  interests  included  chivalry  and  the  Arthurian  and  Grail  romances. 

Indeed  he  seems  to  have  had  a  particular  preoccupation  with  the  Grail. 

He  is  said  to  have  taken  great  pride  in  a  magnificent  cup  of  red 

porphyry,  which,  he  asserted,  had  been  used  at  the  wedding  at  Cana.  He 

had  obtained  it,  he  claimed,  at  Marseilles  where  the  Magdalene, 

according  to  tradition,  landed  with  the  Grail.  Other  chroniclers  speak 

of  a  cup  in 

Rene's  possession  -perhaps  the  same  one  which  bore  a  mysterious  inscription  incised 

into  the  rim: 

Qui  bien  beurra 

Dieu  voira. 

Qui  beurra  tout  dune  baleine 

Voita  Dieu  et  la  Madeleine. s 

(He  who  drinks  well  Will  see  God.  He  who  quaffs  at  a  single  draught 

Will  see  God  and  the  Magdalene.) 

It  would  not  be  inaccurate  to  regard  Rene  d'Anjou  as  a  major  impetus 

behind  the  phenomenon  now  called  the  Renaissance.  By  virtue  of  his 

numerous 

Italian  possessions  he  spent  some  years  in  Italy;  and  through  his 

intimate  friendship  with  the  ruling  Sforza  family  of  Milan  he 

established  contact  with  the  Medicis  of  Florence.  There  is  good  reason 

to  believe  that  it  was  largely  Rene's  influence  which  prompted  Cosimo 

de'  Medici  to  embark  on  a  series  of  ambitious  projects  projects 


130 


destined  to  transform  Western  civilisation.  In  1439,  while  Rene  was 

resident  in  Italy,  Cosimo  de'  Medici  began  sending  his  agents  all  over 

the  world  in  quest  of  ancient  manuscripts.  Then,  in  1444,  Cosimo 

founded  Europe's  first  public  library,  the  Library  of  San 

Marco,  and  thus  began  to  challenge  the  Church's  long  monopoly  of  learning. 

At  Cosimo's  express  commission,  the  corpus  of  Platonic,  Neo-Platonic, 

Pythagorean,  Gnostic  and  Hermetic  thought  found  its  way  into 

translation  for  the  first  time  and  became  readily  accessible.  Cosimo 

also  instructed  the  University  of  Florence  to  begin  teaching  Greek,  for 

the  first  time  in 

Europe  for  some  seven  hundred  years.  And  he  undertook  to  create  an  academy  of 

Pythagorean  and  Platonic  studies.  Cosimo's  academy  quickly  generated  a  multitude  of 

similar  institutions  throughout  the  Italian  peninsula,  which  became  bastions  of  Western 

esoteric  tradition.  And  from  them  the  high  culture  of  the  Renaissance  began  to  blossom. 

Rene  d'Anjou  not  only  contributed  in  some  measure  to  the  formation  of 

the  academies,  but  also  seems  to  have  conferred  upon  them  one  of  their 

favourite  symbolic  themes  that  of  Arcadia.  Certainly  it  is  in  Rene's 

own  career  that  the  motif  of  Arcadia  appears  to  have  made  its  debut  in 

post-Christian  Western  culture.  In  1449,  for  example,  at  his  court 

of 

Tarascon,  Rene  staged  a  series  of  pas  dames  curious  hybrid  amalgams  of  tournament 

and  masque,  in  which  knights  tilted  against  each  other  and,  at  the  same  time,  performed  a 

species  of  drama  or  play.  One  of  Rene's  most  famous  pas  dames  was  called  "The  Pas 

dAmes  of  the  Shepherdess'.  Played  by  his  mistress  at  the  time,  the  "Shepherdess'  was 

an  explicitly  Arcadian  figure,  embodying  both  romantic  and  philosophical  attributes.  She 

presided  over  a  tourney  in  which  knights  assumed  allegorical  identities  representing 

conflicting  values  and  ideas.  The  event  was  a  singular  fusion  of  the  pastoral  Arcadian 

romance  with  the  pageantry  of  the  Round  Table  and  the  mysteries  of  the  Holy  Grail. 

Arcadia  figures  elsewhere  in  Rene's  work  as  well.  It  is  frequently 

denoted  by  a  fountain  or  a  tombstone,  both  of  which  are  associated  with 

an  underground  stream.  This  stream  is  usually  equated  with  the  river 

Alpheus  the  central  river  in  the  actual  geographical  Arcadia  in  Greece, 


131 


which  flows  underground  and  is  said  to  surface  again  at  the  Fountain 

of  Arethusa  in  Sicily.  From  the  most  remote  antiquity  to  Coleridge's  "Kubla  Khan',  the 

river  Alpheus  has  been  deemed  sacred.  Its  very  name  derives  from  the  same  root  as  the 

Greek  word  "Alpha',  meaning  'first'  or  'source'. 

For  Rene,  the  motif  of  an  underground  stream  seems  to  have  been 

extremely  rich  in  symbolic  and  allegorical  resonances.  Among  other 

things,  it  would  appear  to  connote  the  'underground'  esoteric 

tradition  of  Pythagorean, 

Gnostic,  Cabalistic  and  Hermetic  thought.  But  it  might  also  connote  something  more  than 

a  general  corpus  of  teachings,  perhaps  some  very  specific  factual  information  a  'secret'  of 

some  sort,  transmitted  in  clandestine  fashion  from  generation  to  generation.  And  it  might 

connote  an  unacknowledged  and  thus  'subterranean'  bloodline. 

In  the  Italian  academies  the  image  of  the  'underground  stream'  appears  to  have  been 

invested  with  all  these  levels  of  meaning.  And  it  recurs  consistently  so  much  so,  indeed, 

that  the  academies  themselves  have  often  been  labelled  "Arcadian'.  Thus,  in  1502,  a 

major  work  was  published,  a  long  poem  entitled  Arcadia,  by  Jacopo  Sannazaro  and  Rene 

d'Anjou's  Italian  entourage  of  some  years  before  included  one  Jacques  Sannazar, 

probably  the  poet's  father.  In  1553  Sannazaro's  poem  was  translated  into  French.  It  was 

dedicated,  interestingly  enough,  to  the  cardinal  of  Unoncourt  ancestor  of  the 

twentiethcentury  count  of  Unoncourt  who  compiled  the  genealogies  in  the  "Prieure 

documents'. 

During  the  sixteenth  century  Arcadia  and  the  'underground  stream'  became  a  prominent 

cultural  fashion.  In  England  they  inspired  Sir  Philip  Sidney's  most  important  work, 

Arcadia."  In  Italy  they  inspired  such  illustrious  figures  as  Torquato  'lasso  whose 

masterpiece,  Jerusalem  Delivered,  deals  with  the  capture  of  the  Holy  City  by  Godfroi  de 

Bouillon.  By  the  seventeenth  century  the  motif  of  Arcadia  had  culminated  in  Nicolas 

Poussin  and  "Les  Bergers  d'Arcadie'. 

The  more  we  explored  the  matter,  the  more  apparent  it  became  that 

something  -  a  tradition  of  some  sort,  a  hierarchy  of  values  or 

attitudes,  perhaps  a  specific  body  of  information  was  constantly  being 

intimated  by  the  'underground  stream'.  This  image  seems  to  have 


132 


assumed  obsessive  proportions  in  the  minds  of  certain  eminent 

political  families  of  the  period  all  of  whom,  directly  or  indirectly, 

figure  in  the  genealogies  of  the  "Prieure  documents'.  And  the  families 

in  question  seem  to  have  transmitted  the  image  to  their  proteges  in  the 

arts.  From  Rene  d'Anjou,  something  seems  to  have  passed  to  the 

Medicis,  the  Sforzas,  the  Estes  and  the  Gonzagas  the  last  of  whom, 

according  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  provided  Sion  with  two  Grand 

Masters,  Ferrante  de  Gonzaga  and  Louis  de 

Gonzaga,  Duke  of  Nevers.  From  them  it  appears  to  have  found  its  way 

into  the  work  of  the  epoch's  most  illustrious  poets  and  painters, 

including 

Botticelli  and  Leonardo  da  Vinci. 

The  Rosicrucian  Manifestos 

A  somewhat  similar  dissemination  of  ideas  occurred  in  the  seventeenth 

century,  first  in  Germany,  then  spreading  to  England.  In  1614  the 

first  of  the  so-called  "Rosicrucian  manifestos'  appeared,  followed  by  a 

second  tract  a  year  later.  These  manifestos  created  a  furore  at  the 

time,  provoking  fulminations  from  the  Church  and  the  Jesuits,  and 

elicting  fervently  enthusiastic  support  from  liberal  factions  in 

Protestant  Europe.  Among  the  most  eloquent  and  influential  exponents 

of  "Rosicrucian  thought  was  Robert 

Fludd,  who  is  listed  as  the  Prieure  de  Sion's  sixteenth  Grand  Master,  presiding  between 

1595  and  1637. 

Among  other  things,  the  "Rosicrucian  manifestos'8  promulgated  the  story  of  the  legendary 

Christian  Rosenkreuz.  They  purported  to  issue  from  a  secret,  'invisible'  confraternity  of 

'initiates'  in  Germany  and  France. 

They  promised  a  transformation  of  the  world  and  of  human  knowledge  in 

accordance  with  esoteric,  Hermetic  principles  the  'underground  stream' 

which  had  flowed  from  Rene  d'Anjou  through  the  Renaissance.  A  new 

epoch  of  spiritual  freedom  was  heralded,  an  epoch  in  which  man  would 

liberate  himself  from  his  former  shackles,  would  unlock  hitherto 

dormant  'secrets  of  nature',  and  would  govern  his  own  destiny  in  accord 

with  harmonious,  all  pervading  universal  and  cosmic  laws.  At  the  same 


133 


time,  the  manifestos  were  highly  inflammatory  politically,  fiercely 

attacking  the  Catholic  Church  and  the  old  Holy  Roman  Empire.  These 

manifestos  are  now  generally  believed  to  have  been  written  by  a. German 

theologian  and  esotericist,  Johann  Valentin  Andrea,  listed  as  Grand 

Master  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  after  Robert  Fludd.  If  they  were  not 

written  by 

Andrea,  they  were  certainly  written  by  one  or  more  of  his  associates. 

In  1616  a  third  "Rosicrucian'  tract  appeared,  The  Chemical  Wedding  of 

Christian  Rosenkreuz.  Like  the  two  previous  works,  The  Chemical  Wedding  was  originally 

of  anonymous  authorship;  but  Andrea  himself  later  confessed  to  having  composed  it  as  a 

"joke'  or  comedy. 

The  Chemical  Wedding  is  a  complex  Hermetic  allegory,  which  subsequently 

influenced  such  works  as  Goethe's  Faust.  As  Frances  Yates  has 

demonstrated,  it  contains  unmistakable  echoes  of  the  English 

esotericist,  John  Dee,  who  also  influenced  Robert  Fludd.  Andrea's  work 

also  evokes  resonances  of  the 

Grail  romances  and  of  the  Knights  Templar  Christian  Rosenkreuz,  for  instance,  is  said  to 

wear  a  white  tunic  with  a  red  cross  on  the  shoulder. 

In  the  course  of  the  narrative  a  play  is  performed  an  allegory  within  an  allegory.  This  play 

involves  a  princess,  of  unspecified  'royal'  lineage,  whose  rightful  domains  have  been 

usurped  by  the  Moors  and  who  is  washed  ashore  in  a  wooden  chest.  The  rest  of  the  play 

deals  with  her  vicissitudes  and  her  marriage  to  a  prince  who  will  help  her  regain  her 

heritage. 

Our  research  revealed  assorted  second-  and  third-hand  links  between 

Andrea  and  the  families  whose  genealogies  figure  in  the  "Prieure 

documents'.  We  discovered  no  firsthand  or  direct  links,  however, 

except  perhaps  for 

Frederick,  Elector  Palatine  of  the  Rhine.  Frederick  was  the  nephew  of  an  important 

French  Protestant  leader,  Henri  de  la  Tour  dAuvergne,  Viscount  of  Turenne  and  Duke  of 

Bouillon  Godfroi  de  Bouillon's  old  title.  Henri  was  also  associated  with  the  Longueville 

family,  which  figured  prominently  in  both  the  "Prieure  documents'  and  our  own  inquiry. 

And  in  1591  he  had  taken  great  trouble  to  acquire  the  town  of  Stenay. 

In  1613  Frederick  of  the  Palatinate  had  married  Elizabeth  Stuart, 

daughter  of  James  I  of  England,  granddaughter  of  Mary  Queen  of  Scots 

and  great-granddaughter  of  Marie  de  Guise  and  Guise  was  the  cadet 


134 


branch  of  the  house  of  Lorraine.  Marie  de  Guise,  a  century  before, 

had  been  married  to  the  duke  of  Longueville  and  then,  on  his  death,  to 

f  ames  V  of 

Scotland.  This  created  a  dynastic  alliance  between  the  houses  of 

Stuart  and 

Lorraine.  In  consequence  the  Stuarts  began  to  figure,  if  only  peripherally,  in  the 

genealogies  of  the  "Prieure  documents':  and  Andrea,  as  well  as  the  three  alleged  Grand 

Masters  who  followed  him,  displayed  varying  degrees  of  interest  in  the  Scottish  royal 

house. 

During  this  period  the  house  of 

Lorraine  was,  to  a  significant  degree,  in  eclipse.  If  Sion  was  a  coherent  and  active  order 

at  the  time,  it  might  therefore  have  transferred  its  allegiance  -at  least  partially  and 

temporarily  to  the  decidedly  more  influential  Stuarts. 

In  any  case  Frederick  of  the  Palatinate,  after  his  marriage  to 

Elizabeth 

Stuart,  established  an  esoteric  ally  oriented  court  at  his  capital  of 

Heidelberg.  As  Frances  Yates  writes: 

A  culture  was  forming  in  the  Palatinate  which  came  straight  out  of 

the 

Renaissance  but  with  more  recent  trends  added,  a  culture  which  may  be 

defined  by  the  adjective  "Rosicrucian'.  The  prince  around  whom  these 

deep  currents  were  swirling  was  Friedrich,  Elector  Palatine,  and  their 

exponents  were  hoping  for  a  politico-religious  expression  of  their  aims 

...The 

Frederickian  movement ..  .  was  an  attempt  to  give  those  currents 

politico-religious  expression,  to  realise  the  ideal  of  Hermetic  reform 

centred  on  a  real  prince  ..  .  It ..  .  created  a  culture,  a 

"Rosicrucian'  state  with  its  court  centred  on  Heidelberg. 9 

In  short  the  anonymous  "Rosicrucians'  and  their  sympathisers  seem  to  have  invested 

Frederick  with  a  sense  of  mission,  both  spiritual  and  political. 

And  Frederick  seems  to  have  readily  accepted  the  role  imposed  upon  him, 

together  with  the  hopes  and  expectations  it  entailed.  Thus,  in  1 61 8, 

he  accepted  the  crown  of  Bohemia,  offered  him  by  that  country's 

rebellious  nobles.  In  doing  so  he  incurred  the  wrath  of  the  papacy  and 

the  Holy  Roman 

Empire  and  precipitated  the  chaos  of  the  Thirty  Years  War.  Within  two 

years  he  and  Elizabeth  had  been  driven  into  exile  in  Holland,  and 

Heidelberg  was  overrun  by  Catholic  troops.  And  for  the  ensuing  quarter 


135 


of  a  century  Germany  became  the  major  battleground  for  the  most 
bitter,  bloody  and  costly  conflict  in  European  history  before  the 
twentieth  century  a  conflict  in  which  the  Church  almost  managed  to 
re-impose  the  hegemony  she  had  enjoyed  during  the  Middle  Ages. 

Amidst  the  turmoil  raging  around  him,  Andrea  created  a  network  of  more 

or  less  secret  societies  known  as  the  Christian  Unions.  According  to 

Andrea's  blueprint,  each  society  was  headed  by  an  anonymous  prince, 

assisted  by  twelve  others  divided  into  groups  of  three  each  of  whom  was 

to  be  a  specialist  in  a  given  sphere  of  study."  The  original  purpose 

of  the 

Christian  Unions  was  to  preserve  threatened  knowledge  especially  the 

most  recent  scientific  advances,  many  of  which  the  Church  deemed 

heretical.  At  the  same  time,  however,  the  Christian  Unions  also 

functioned  as  a  refuge  for  persons  fleeing  the  Inquisition  which 

accompanied  the  invading 

Catholic  armies,  and  was  intent  on  rooting  out  all  vestiges  of 

"Rosicrucian'  thought.  Thus  numerous  scholars,  scientists,  philosophers  and  esotericists 

found  a  haven  in  Andrea's  institutions.  Through  them  many  were  smuggled  to  safety  in 

England  where  Freemasonry  was  just  beginning  to  coalesce.  In  some  significant  sense 

Andrea's  Christian  Unions  may  have  contributed  to  the  organisation  of  the  Masonic  lodge 

system. 

Among  the  displaced  Europeans  finding  their  way  to  England  were  a 

number  of 

Andrea's  personal  associates:  Samuel  Hartlib,  for  example;  Adam 

Komensky,  better  known  as  Comenius,  with  whom  Andrea  maintained  a 

continuing  correspondence;  Theodore  Haak,  who  was  also  a  personal 

friend  of  Elizabeth 

Stuart  and  maintained  a  correspondence  with  her;  and  Doctor  John  Wilkins,  formerly 

personal  chaplain  to  Frederick  of  the  Palatinate  and  subsequently  bishop  of  Chester. 

Once  in  England,  these  men  became  closely  associated  with  Masonic  circles. 

They  were  intimate  with  Robert  Moray,  for  instance,  whose  induction 

into  a 

Masonic  lodge  in  1 641  is  one  of  the  earliest  on  record;  with  Elias 

Ashmole,  antiquarian  and  expert  on  chivalric  orders,  who  was  inducted 

in  1646;  with  the  young  but  precocious  Robert  Boyle  who,  though  not 

himself  a 

Freemason,  was  a  member  of  another,  more  elusive  secret  society." 


136 


There  is  no  concrete  evidence  that  this  secret  society  was  the  Prieure 

de  Sion,  but  Boyle,  according  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  succeeded 

Andrea  as  Sion's  Grand  Master. 

During  Cromwell's  Protectorate,  these  dynamic  minds,  both  English  and 

European,  formed  what  Boyle  in  a  deliberate  echo  of  the  "Rosicrucian'  manifestos  called 

an  'invisible  college'.  And  with  the  restoration  of  the  monarchy  in  1660,  the  'invisible 

college'  became  the  Royal  Society"  with  the  Stuart  ruler,  Charles  II,  as  its  patron  and 

sponsor. 

Virtually  all  the 

Royal  Society's  founder  members  were  Freemasons.  One  could  reasonably 

argue  that  the  Royal  Society  itself,  at  least  in  its  inception,  was  a 

Masonic  institution  derived,  through  Andrea's  Christian  Unions,  from 

the  'invisible  Rosicrucian  brotherhood'.  But  this  was  not  to  be  the 

culmination  of  the  'underground  stream'.  On  the  contrary,  it  was  to 

flow  from  Boyle  to 

Sir  Isaac  Newton,  listed  as  Sion's  next  Grand  Master,  and  thence  into  the  complex 

tributaries  of  eighteenth-century  Freemasonry. 

The  Stuart  Dynasty 

According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  Newton  was  succeeded  as  Sion's 

Grand 

Master  by  Charles  Radclyffe.  The  name  was  hardly  as  resonant  to  us 

as 

Newton's  or  Boyle's  or  even  Andrea's.  Indeed,  we  were  not  at  first  certain  who  Charles 

Radclyffe  was.  As  we  began  to  research  into  him,  however,  he  emerged  as  a  figure  of 

considerable,  if  subterranean,  consequence  in  eighteenth-century  cultural  history. 

Since  the  sixteenth  century  the  Radclyffes  had  been  an  influential 

Northumbrian  family.  In  1688,  shortly  before  he  was  deposed,  James  II 

had  created  them  earls  of  Derwentwater.  Charles  Radclyffe  himself  was 

born  in  1693.  His  mother  was  an  illegitimate  daughter  of  Charles  II  by 

his  mistress,  Moll  Davies.  Radclyffe  was  thus,  on  his  mother's  side, 

of  royal  blood  a  grandson  of  the  next-to  last  Stuart  monarch.  He  was  a 

cousin  of 

Bonnie  Prince  Charlie  and  of  George  Lee,  Earl  of  Lichfield  another  illegitimate  grandson  of 

Charles  II.  Not  surprisingly,  therefore,  Radclyffe  devoted  much  of  his  life  to  the  Stuart 

cause. 


137 


In  1715  this  cause  rested  with  the  "Old  Pretender',  James  III,  then  in 

exile  and  residing  at  Bar-leDuc,  under  the  special  protection  of  duke 

of  Lorraine.  Radclyffe  and  his  elder  brother,  James,  both  participated 

in  the  Scottish  rebellion  of  that  year.  Both  were  captured  and 

imprisoned,  and  James  was  executed.  Charles,  in  the  meantime, 

apparently  aided  by  the  earl  of  Lichfield,  made  a  dashing  and 

unprecedented  escape  from 

Newgate  prison,  and  found  refuge  in  the  Jacobite  ranks  in  France.  In 

the  years  that  followed  he  became  personal  secretary  to  the  "Young 

Pretender', 

Bonnie  Prince  Charlie. 

In  1745  the  latter  landed  in  Scotland  and  embarked  on  his  quixotic 

attempt  to  reinstate  the  Stuarts  on  the  British  throne.  In  the  same 

year  Radclyffe,  en  route  to  join  him,  was  captured  in  a  French  ship  off 

the  Dogger  Bank.  A  year  later,  in  1746,  the  "Young  Pretender'  was 

disastrously  defeated  at  the 

Battle  of  Culloden  Moor.  A  few  months  thereafter,  Charles  Radclyffe  died  beneath  the 

headsman's  axe  at  the  Tower  of  London. 

During  their  stay  in  France  the  Stuarts  had  been  deeply  involved  in  the 

dissemination  of  Freemasonry.  Indeed  they  are  generally  regarded  as 

the  source  of  the  particular  form  of  Freemasonry  known  as  "Scottish 

Rite'.  "Scottish  Rite'  Freemasonry  introduced  higher  degrees  than 

those  offered  by  other  Masonic  systems  at  the  time.  It  promised 

initiation  into  greater  and  more  profound  mysteries  -mysteries 

supposedly  preserved  and  handed  down  in 

Scotland.  It  established  more  direct  connections  between  Freemasonry  and  the  various 

activities  alchemy,  Cabalism  and  Hermetic  thought,  for  instance  which  were  regarded  as 

"Rosicrucian'.  And  it  elaborated  not  only  on  the  antiquity  but  also  on  the  illustrious 

pedigree  of  the  'craft'. 

It  is  probable  that  "Scottish  Rite'  Freemasonry  was  originally 

promulgated,  if  not  indeed  devised,  by  Charles  Radclyffe.  In  any  case 

Radclyffe,  in  1725,  is  said  to  have  founded  the  first  Masonic  lodge  on 

the  continent,  in 

Paris.  During  the  same  year,  or  perhaps  in  the  year  following,  he  seems  to  have  been 

acknowledged  Grand  Master  of  all  French  lodges,  and  it  is  still  cited  as  such  a  decade 

later,  in  1736.  The  dissemination  of  eighteenth-century  Freemasonry  owes  more, 

ultimately,  to  Radclyffe  than  to  any  other  man. 


138 


This  has  not  always  been  readily  apparent  because  Radclyffe, 

especially  after  1738,  kept  a  relatively  'low  profile'.  To  a  very  significant  degree,  he  seems 

to  have  worked  through  intermediaries  and  'mouthpieces'.  The  most  important  of  these, 

and  the  most  famous,  was  the  enigmatic  individual  known  as  the  Chevalier  Andrew 

Ramsay." 

Ramsay  was  born  in  Scotland  sometime  during  the  1680s.  As  a  young  man 

he  was  a  member  of  a  quasi  Masonic  quasi-"Rosicrucian'  society  called 

the 

Philadelphians.  Among  the  other  members  of  this  society  were  at  least  two  close  friends 

of  Isaac  Newton.  Ramsay  himself  regarded  Newton  with  unmitigated  reverence,  deeming 

him  a  kind  of  high  mystical  'initiate'  -  a  man  who  had  rediscovered  and  reconstructed  the 

eternal  truths  concealed  in  the  ancient  mysteries. 

Ramsay  had  other  links  with  Newton.  He  was  associated  with  jean 

Desaguliers,  one  of  Newton's  closest  friends.  In  1707  he  studied 

mathematics  under  one  Nicolas  Fatio  de  Duillier,  the  most  intimate  of 

all 

Newton's  companions.  Like  Newton,  he  displayed  a  sympathetic  interest  in  the 

Camisards  -  a  sect  of  Cathar-like  heretics  then  suffering  persecution  in  southern  France, 

and  a  kind  of  cause  celebre  for  Fatio  de  Duillier. 

By  1710  Ramsay  was  in  Cambrai  and  on  intimate  terms  with  the  mystical  philosopher 

Fenelon,  formerly  cure  of  Saint  Sulpice  which,  even  at  that  time,  was  a  bastion  of  rather 

questionable  orthodoxy.  It  is  not  known  precisely  when  Ramsay  made  Charles 

Radclyffe's  acquaintance,  but  by  the  1720s  he  was  closely  affiliated  with  the  Jacobite 

cause.  For  a  time  he  even  served  as  Bonnie  Prince  Charlie's  tutor. 

Despite  his  Jacobite  connections,  Ramsay  returned  to  England  in  1729  where 

notwithstanding  an  apparent  lack  of  appropriate  qualifications  he  was  promptly  admitted  to 

the  Royal  Society.  He  also  became  a  member  of  a  rather  more  obscure  institution  called 

the  Gentleman's  Club  of  Spalding.  This  'club'  included  men  like  Desaguliers,  Alexander 

Pope  and,  until  his  death  in  1727,  Isaac  Newton. 

By  1730  Ramsay  was  back  in  France  and  increasingly  active  on  behalf 

of 

Freemasonry.  He  is  on  record  as  having  attended  lodge  meetings  with  a 

number  of  notable  figures,  including  Desaguliers.  And  he  received 


139 


special  patronage  from  the  Tour  dAuvergne  family,  the  viscounts  of 

Turenne  and  dukes  of 

Bouillon  who,  three-quarters  of  a  century  before,  had  been  related  to 

Frederick  of  the  Palatinate.  In  Ramsay's  time  the  duke  of  Bouillon  was 

a  cousin  of  Bonnie  Prince  Charlie  and  among  the  most  prominent  figures 

in 

Freemasonry.  He  conferred  an  estate  and  a  town-house  on  Ramsay,  whom  he  also 

appointed  tutor  to  his  son. 

In  1737  Ramsay  delivered  his  famous  "Oration'  -  a  lengthy  disquisition 

on  the  history  of  Freemasonry,  which  subsequently  became  a  seminal 

document  for  the  'craft'  ."4  On  the  basis  of  this  "Oration'  Ramsay 

became  the  preeminent  Masonic  spokesman  of  his  age.  Our  research 

convinced  us,  however,  that  the  real  voice  behind  Ramsay  was  that  of 

Charles  Radclyffe  who  presided  over  the  lodge  at  which  Ramsay  delivered 

his  discourse  and  who  appeared  again,  in  1743,  as  chief  signatory  at 

Ramsay's  funeral.  But  if 

Radclyffe  was  the  power  behind  Ramsay,  it  would  seem  to  have  been  Ramsay  who 

constituted  the  link  between  Radclyffe  and  Newton. 

Despite  Radclyffe's  premature  death  in  1746,  the  seeds  he  had  sown  in 

Europe  continued  to  bear  fruit.  Early  in  the  1750s  a  new  ambassador 

of 

Freemasonry  appeared  a  German  named  Karl  Gottlieb  von  Hund.  Hund 

claimed  to  have  been  initiated  in  1742  -  a  year  before  Ramsay's  death, 

four  years  before  Radclyffe's.  At  his  initiation,  he  claimed,  he  had 

been  introduced  to  a  new  system  of  Freemasonry,  confided  to  him  by 

'unknown  superiors'. "5 

These  'unknown  superiors',  Hund  maintained,  were  closely  associated  with  the  Jacobite 

cause.  Indeed,  he  even  believed  at  first  that  the  man  who  presided  over  his  initiation  was 

Bonnie  Prince  Charlie.  And  although  this  proved  not  to  be  the  case,  Hund  remained 

convinced  that  the  unidentified  personage  in  question  was  intimately  connected  with  the 

"Young  Pretender'. 

It  seems  reasonable  to  suppose  that  the  man  who  actually  presided  was 

Charles  Radclyffe. 

The  system  of  Freemasonry  to  which  Hund  was  introduced  a  further 

extension  of  the  "Scottish  Rite'was  subsequently  called  "Strict 

Observance'.  Its  name  derived  from  the  oath  it  demanded,  an  oath  of  unswerving, 

unquestioning  obedience  to  the  mysterious  'unknown  superiors'. 


140 


And  the  basic  tenet  of  the  "Strict  Observance'  was  that  it  had 

descended  directly  from  the  Knights  Templar,  some  of  whom  had 

purportedly  survived  the  purge  of  1307-14  and  perpetuated  their  Order 

in 

Scotland. 

We  were  already  familiar  with  this  claim.  On  the  basis  of  our  own  research  we  could  allow 

it  some  truth.  A  contingent  of  Templars  had  allegedly  fought  on  Robert  Bruce's  side  at  the 

Battle  of  Bannockburn. 

Because  the  Papal  Bull  dissolving  the  Templars  was  never  promulgated  in 

Scotland,  the  Order  was  never  officially  suppressed  there.  And  we 

ourselves  had  located  what  seemed  to  be  a  Templar  graveyard  in 

Argyllshire.  The  earliest  of  the  stones  in  this  graveyard  dated  from 

the  thirteenth  century,  the  later  ones  from  the  eighteenth.  The 

earlier  stones  bore  certain  unique  carvings  and  incised  symbols 

identical  to  those  found  at  known  Templar  preceptories  in  England  and 

France.  The  later  stones  combined  these  symbols  with  specifically 

Masonic  motifs,  attesting  thereby  to  some  sort  of  fusion.  It  was  thus 

not  impossible,  we  concluded,  that  the  Order  had  indeed  perpetuated 

itself  in  the  trackless  wilderness  of  medieval  Argyll  -maintaining  a 

clandestine  existence,  gradually  secular  ising  itself  and  becoming 

associated  with  both 

Masonic  guilds  and  the  prevailing  clan  system. 

The  pedigree  Hund  claimed  for  the  "Strict  Observance'  did  not, 

therefore,  seem  to  us  altogether  improbable.  To  his  own  embarrassment 

and  subsequent  disgrace,  however,  he  was  unable  to  elaborate  further  on 

his  new  system  of 

Freemasonry.  As  a  result  his  contemporaries  dismissed  him  as  a 

charlatan,  and  accused  him  of  having  fabricated  the  story  of  his 

initiation,  his  meeting  with  'unknown  superiors',  his  mandate  to 

disseminate  the  "Strict 

Observance'.  To  these  charges  Hund  could  only  reply  that  his  'unknown  superiors'  had 

inexplicably  abandoned  him.  They  had  promised  to  contact  him  again  and  give  him 

further  instructions,  he  protested,  but  they  had  never  done  so.  To  the  end  of  his  life  he 

affirmed  his  integrity,  maintaining  he  had  been  deserted  by  his  original  sponsors  who,  he 

insisted,  had  actually  existed. 

The  more  we  considered  Hund's  assertions,  the  more  plausible  they 

sounded  and  he  appeared  to  have  been  a  hapless  victim  not  so  much  of 

deliberate  betrayal  as  of  circumstances  beyond  everyone's  control.  For 


141 


according  to  his  own  account,  Hund  had  been  initiated  in  1742,  when 

the  Jacobites  were  still  a  powerful  political  force  in  continental 

affairs.  By  1746,  however, 

Radclyffe  was  dead.  So  were  many  of  his  colleagues,  while  others  were  in  prison  or  exile 

as  far  away,  in  some  cases,  as  North  America.  If  Hund's  'unknown  superiors'  failed  to 

reestablish  contact  with  their  protege,  the  omission  does  not  seem  to  have  been  voluntary. 

The  fact  that  Hund  was  abandoned  immediately  after  the  collapse  of  the  Jacobite  cause 

would  seem,  if  anything,  to  confirm  his  story. 

There  is  another  fragment  of  evidence  which  lends  credence  not  only 

to 

Hund's  claims  but  to  the  "Prieure  documents'  as  well.  This  evidence  is 

a  list  of  Grand  Masters  of  the  Knights  Templar,  which  Hund  insisted  he 

had  obtained  from  his  'unknown  superiors'.  '6  On  the  basis  of  our  own 

research,  we  had  concluded  that  the  list  of  Templar  Grand  Masters  in 

the  Dossiers  secrets  was  accurate  so  accurate,  in  fact,  that  it 

appeared  to  derive  from  'inside  information'.  Save  for  the  spelling  of 

a  single  surname,  the  list  Hund  produced  agreed  with  the  one  in  the 

Dossiers  secret.  In  shot, 

Hund  had  somehow  obtained  a  list  of  Templar  Grand  Masters  more  accurate  than  any 

other  known  at  the  time.  Moreover,  he  obtained  it  when  many  documents  on  which  we 

relied  charters,  deeds,  proclamations  were  still  sequestered  in  the  Vatican  and 

unobtainable.  This  would  seem  to  confirm  that  Hund's  story  of  'unknown  superiors'  was 

not  a  fabrication.  It  would  also  seem  to  indicate  that  those  'unknown  superiors'  were 

extraordinarily  knowledgeable  about  the  Order  of  the  Temple  more  knowledgeable  than 

they  could  possibly  have  been  without  access  to  'privileged  sources'. 

In  any  case,  despite  the  charges  levelled  against  him  Hund  was  not  left 

completely  friendless.  After  the  collapse  of  the  Jacobite  cause  he 

found  a  sympathetic  patron,  and  a  close  companion,  in  no  less  a  person 

than  the 

Holy  Roman  Emperor.  The  Holy  Roman  Emperor  at  this  time  was  FranQois, 

Duke  of  Lorraine  who,  by  his  marriage  to  Maria  Theresa  of  Austria  in 

1735,  had  linked  the  houses  of  Habsburg  and  Lorraine  and  inaugurated 

the 

Habsburg-Lorraine  dynasty.  And  according  to  the  "Prieure  documents', 

it  was 


142 


Francois's  brother,  Charles  de  Lorraine,  who  succeeded  Radclyffe  as 

Sion's  Grand  Master. 

Fran(~ois  was  the  first  European  prince  to  become  a  Mason  and  to 

publicise  his  Masonic  affiliations.  He  was  initiated  in  1731  at  the 

Hague  a  bastion  of  esoteric  activity  since  "Rosicrucian'  circles  had 

installed  themselves  there  during  the  Thirty  Years  War.  And  the  man 

who  presided  over  Francois's  initiation  was  jean  Desaguliers,  intimate 

associate  of  Newton,  Ramsay  and 

Radclyffe.  Shortly  after  his  initiation  moreover,  Franqois  embarked  for  a  lengthy  stay  in 

England.  Here  he  became  a  member  of  that  innocuous-sounding  institution,  the 

Gentleman's  Club  of  Spalding. 

In  the  years  that  followed,  Franqois  de  Lorraine  was  probably  more 

responsible  than  any  other  European  potentate  for  the  spread  of 

Freemasonry.  His  court  at  Vienna  became,  in  a  sense,  Europe's  Masonic 

capital,  and  a  centre  for  a  broad  spectrum  of  other  esoteric  interests 

as  well.  FranQois  himself  was  a  practising  alchemist,  with  an 

alchemical  laboratory  in  the  imperial  palace,  the  Hofburg.  On  the 

death  of  the  last 

Medici  he  became  grand  duke  of  Tuscany,  and  deftly  thwarted  the 

Inquisition's  harassment  of  Freemasons  in  Florence.  Through 

Franqois, 

Charles  Radclyffe,  who  had  founded  the  first  Masonic  lodge  on  the  continent,  left  a 

durable  legacy. 

Charles  Nodier  and  His  Circle 

Compared  to  the  important  cultural  and  political  figures  who  preceded  him,  compared 

even  to  a  man  like  Charles  Radclyffe,  Charles  Nodier  seemed  a  most  unlikely  choice  for 

Grand  Master.  We  knew  him  primarily  as  a  kind  of  literary  curiosity  a  relatively  minor 

belle-lettrist,  a  somewhat  garrulous  essayist,  a  second-rate  novelist  and  short-story  writer 

in  the  bizarre  tradition  of  E.  T.  A.  Hoffmann  and,  later,  Edgar  Allan  Poe.  In  his  own  time, 

however,  Nodier  was  regarded  as  a  major  cultural  figure,  and  his  influence  was  enormous. 

Moreover,  he  proved  to  be  connected  with  our  inquiry  in  a  number  of  surprising  ways. 

By  1824  Nodier  was  already  a  literary  celebrity.  In  that  year  he  was 


143 


appointed  the  chief  librarian  at  the  Arsenal  Library,  the  major  French 

depository  for  medieval  and  specifically  occult  manuscripts.  Among  its  various  treasures 

the  Arsenal  was  said  to  have  contained  the  alchemical  works  of  Nicolas  Flamel  the 

medieval  alchemist  listed  as  one  of  Sion's  earlier  Grand  Masters.  The  Arsenal  also 

contained  the  library  of  Cardinal  Richelieu  an  exhaustive  collection  of  works  on  magical, 

Cabalistic  and  Hermetic  thought.  And  there  were  other  treasures,  too.  On  the  outbreak  of 

the  French  Revolution  monasteries  throughout  the  country  had  been  plundered,  and  all 

books  and  manuscripts  sent  to  Paris  for  storage.  Then  in  1810  Napoleon,  as  part  of  his 

ambition  to  create  a  definitive  world  library,  confiscated  and  brought  to  Paris  almost  the 

entire  archive  of  the  Vatican.  There  were  more  than  three  thousand  cases  of  material, 

some  of  which  all  the  documents  pertaining  to  the  Templars,  for  example  -had  been 

specifically  requested.  Although  some  of  these  papers  were  subsequently  returned  to 

Rome,  a  great  many  remained  in  France.  And  it  was  material  of  this  sort  -occult  books 

and  manuscripts,  works  plundered  from  monasteries  and  the  archive  of  the  Vatican  that 

passed  through  the  hands  of  Nodier  and  his  associates.  Methodically  they  sifted  it, 

catalogued  it,  explored  it. 

Among  Nodier's  colleagues  in  this  task  were  Eliphas  Levi  and  Jean 

Baptiste 

Pitois,  who  adopted  the  nom  de  plume  of  Paul  Christian.  The  works  of  these  two  men, 

over  the  years  that  followed,  engendered  a  major  renaissance  of  interest  in  esoterica.  It  is 

to  these  two  men,  and  to  Charles  Nodier,  their  mentor,  that  the  French  "occult  revival'  of 

the  nineteenth  century,  as  it  has  been  called,  can  ultimately  be  traced. 

Indeed,  Pitois's  History  and 

Practice  of  Magic  became  a  bible  for  nineteenth-century  students  of  the  arcane.  Recently 

re-issued  in  English  translation  complete  with  its  original  dedication  to  Nodier  it  is  now  a 

coveted  work  among  modern  students  of  the  occult. 

During  his  tenure  at  the  Arsenal  Nodier  continued  to  write  and  publish  prolifically.  Among 

the  most  important  of  his  later  works  is  a  massive,  lavishly  illustrated,  multi-volume  opus 

of  antiquarian  interest,  devoted  to  sites  of  particular  consequence  in  ancient  France. 

In  this  monumental  compendium  Nodier  devoted  considerable  space  to  the 


144 


Merovingian  epoch  a  fact  all  the  more  striking  in  that  no  one  at  the 

time  displayed  the  least  interest  in  the 

Merovingians.  There  are  also  lengthy  sections  on  the  Templars,  and  there  is  a  special 

article  on  Gisors  including  a  detailed  account  of  the  mysterious  'cutting  of  the  elm'  in  1 188, 

which,  according  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  marked  the  separation  between  the  Knights 

Templar  and  the  Prieure  de  Sion." 

At  the  same  time  Nodier  was  more  than  a  librarian  and  a  writer.  He  was 

also  a  gregarious,  egocentric  and  flamboyant  individual  who  constantly 

sought  the  centre  of  attention  and  did  not  hesitate  to  exaggerate  his 

own  importance.  In  his  quarters  at  the  Arsenal  Library  he  inaugurated 

a  salon  which  established  him  as  one  of  the  most  influential  and 

prestigious  'aesthetic  potentates'  of  the  epoch.  By  the  time  of  his 

death  in  1 845,  he  had  served  as  mentor  for  a  whole  generation  many  of 

whom  quite  eclipsed  him  in  their  subsequent  achievements.  For  example, 

Nodier's  chief  disciple  and  closest  friend  was  the  young  Victor  Hugo 

Sion's  next  Grand  Master  according  to  the  "Prieure  documents'.  There 

was  Franqois-Rene  de 

Chateaubriand  who  made  a  special  pilgrimage  to  Poussin's  tomb  in  Rome 

and  had  a  stone  erected  there  bearing  a  reproduction  of  "Les  Bergers 

d'Arcadie'.  There  were  Balzac,  Delacroix,  Dumas  pere,  Lamartine, 

Musset, 

Theophile  Gautier,  Gerard  de  Nerval  and  Alfred  de  Vigny.  Like  the 

poets  and  painters  of  the  Renaissance,  these  men  often  drew  heavily  on 

esoteric,  and  especially  Hermetic,  tradition.  They  also  incorporated 

in  their  works  a  number  of  motifs,  themes,  references  and  allusions  to 

the  mystery  which,  for  us,  commenced  with  Sauniere  and 

Rennes-leChateau.  In  1832,  for  instance,  a  book  was  published  entitled 

A  Journey  to  Rennes-les-Bains,  which  speaks  at  length  of  a  legendary 

treasure  associated  with  Blanchefort  and  Rennes-leChateau.  The  author 

of  this  obscure  book,  Auguste  de 

Laboulsse-Rochefort,  also  produced  another  work,  The  Lovers  To  Eleonore. 

On  the  title  page  there  appears,  without  any  explanation,  the  motto  "Et 

in 

Arcadia  Ego'. 

Nodier's  literary  and  esoteric  activities  were  quite  clearly  pertinent 

to  our  investigation.  But  there  was  another  aspect  of  his  career  which 

was,  if  anything,  more  pertinent  still.  For  Nodier,  from  his 

childhood,  was  deeply  involved  in  secret  societies.  As  early  as  1790, 


145 


for  instance,  at  the  age  of  ten  he  is  known  to  have  been  involved  in  a 

group  called  the 

Philadelphes."8  Around  1793  he  created  another  group  or  perhaps  an 

inner  circle  of  the  first  -which  included  one  of  the  subsequent 

plotters  against 

Napoleon.  A  charter  dated  1797  attests  to  the  foundation  of  yet 

another  group  also  called  the  Philadelphes  in  that  year. "9  In  the 

library  of 

Besani~on  there  is  a  cryptic  essay  composed  and  recited  to  this  group 

by  one  of  Nodier's  closest  friends.  It  is  entitled  Le  Berger  Arcadien 

ou  Premiere 

Accents  dune  Flute  Champetre  ("The  Arcadian  Shepherd  Sounds  the  First 

Accents  of  a  Rustic  Flute'). z 

In  Paris  in  1802  Nodier  wrote  of  his  affiliation  with  a  secret  society 

which  he  described  as  "Biblical  and  Pythagorean'."  Then,  in  1816,  he 

published  anonymously  one  of  his  most  curious  and  influential  works, 

A 

History  of  Secret  Societies  in  the  Army  under  Napoleon.  In  this  book  Nodier  is 

deliberately  ambiguous.  He  does  not  clarify  definitively  whether  he  is  writing  pure  fiction 

or  pure  fact.  If  anything,  he  implies,  the  book  is  a  species  of  thinly  disguised  allegory  of 

actual  historical  occurrences.  In  any  case  it  develops  a  comprehensive  philosophy  of 

secret  societies.  And  it  credits  such  societies  with  a  number  of  historical 

accomplishments,  including  the  downfall  of  Napoleon.  There  are  a  great  many  secret 

societies  in  operation,  Nodier  declares.  But  there  is  one,  he  adds,  that  takes  precedence 

over  all  others,  that  in  fact  presides  over  all  the  others. 

According  to  Nodier,  this  'supreme'  secret  society  is  called  the 

Philadelphes.  At  the  same  time,  however,  he  speaks  of  "the  oath  which 

binds  me  to  the  Philadelphes  and  which  forbids  me  to  make  them  known 

under  their  social  name  '.21  Nevertheless,  there  is  a  hint  of  Sion  in 

an  address  which 

Nodier  quotes.  It  was  supposedly  made  to  an  assembly  of  Philadelphes  by  one  of  the 

plotters  against  Napoleon.  The  man  in  question  is  speaking  of  his  newly  born  son: 

He  is  too  young  to  engage  himself  to  you  by  the  oath  of  Annibal;  but 

remember  I  have  named  him  Eliacin,  and  that  I  delegate  to  him  the  guard 

of  the  temple  and  the  altar,  if  I  should  die  ere  I  have  seen  fall  from 

his  throne  the  last  of  the  oppressors  of  Jerusalem  .z3 

Nodier's  book  burst  on  the  scene  when  fear  of  secret  societies  had 


146 


assumed  virtually  pathological  proportions.  Such  societies  were  often 

blamed  for  instigating  the  French 

Revolution;  and  the  atmosphere  of  post-Napoleonic  Europe  was  similar,  in  many  respects, 

to  that  of  the  "McCarthy  Era'  in  the  United  States  during  the  1950s.  People  saw,  or 

imagined  they  saw,  conspiracies  everywhere. 

Witch-hunts  abounded.  Every  public  disturbance,  every  minor  disruption,  every  untoward 

occurrence  was  attributed  to  'subversive  activity'  to  the  work  of  highly  organised 

clandestine  organisations  working  insidiously  behind  the  scenes,  eroding  the  fabric  of 

established  institutions,  perpetrating  all  manner  of  devious  sabotage. 

This  mentality  engendered  measures  of  extreme  repression.  And  the 

repression,  directed  often  at  a  fictitious  threat,  in  turn  engendered 

real  opponents,  real  groups  of  subversive  conspirators  who  would  form 

themselves  in  accordance  with  the  fictitious  blueprints.  Even  as 

figments  of  the  imagination,  secret  societies  fostered  a  pervasive 

paranoia  in  the  upper  echelons  of  government;  and  this  paranoia 

frequently  accomplished  more  than  any  secret  society  itself  could 

possibly  have  done.  There  is  no  question  that  the  myth  of  the  secret 

society,  if  not  the  secret  society  itself,  played  a  major  role  in 

nineteenth  century  European  history.  And  one  of  the  chief  architects 

of  that  myth,  and  possibly  of  a  reality  behind  it,  was  Charles 

Nodier.z4 

Debussy  and  the  Rose-Croix 

The  trends  to  which  Nodier  gave  expression  a  fascination  with  secret 

societies  and  a  renewed  interest  in  the  esoteric  continued  to  gain 

influence  and  adherents  throughout  the  nineteenth  century.  Both  trends 

reached  a  peak  in  the  Paris  of  the  fin  de  siecle  the  milieu  of  Claude 

Debussy,  Sion's  alleged  Grand  Master  when  Berenger  Sauniere,  in  1 891 ,  discovered  the 

mysterious  parchments  at  Rennes-leChateau. 

Debussy  seems  to  have  made  Victor  Hugo's  acquaintance  through  the  symbolist  poet 

Paul  Verlaine.  Subsequently  he  set  a  number  of  Hugo's  works  to  music. 

He  also  became  an  integral  member  of  the  symbolist  circles  which,  by  the  last  decade  of 

the  century,  had  come  to  dominate  Parisian  cultural  life. 


147 


These  circles  were  sometimes  illustrious,  sometimes  odd,  sometimes 

both.  They  included  the  young  cleric  Rmile  Hoffet  and  Emma  Calve 

through  whom  Debussy  came  to  meet 

Sauniere.  There  was  also  the  enigmatic  magus  of  French  symbolist 

poetry, 

Stephane  Mallarme  one  of  whose  masterpieces,  L'Apres-Midi  dun  Faune, 

Debussy  set  to  music.  There  was  the  symbolist  playwright,  Maurice 

Maeterlinck,  whose  Merovingian  drama,  Pelleas  et  Melisande,  Debussy 

turned  into  a  world-famous  opera.  There  was  the  flamboyant  Comte 

Philippe  Auguste 

Villiers  de  1  "Isle-Adam,  whose  "Rosicrucian'  play,  Axel,  became  a  bible  for  the  entire 

Symbolist  Movement.  Although  his  death  in  1918  prevented  its  completion,  Debussy 

began  to  compose  a  libretto  for  Villiers's  occult  drama,  intending  to  turn  it,  too,  into  an 

opera. 

Among  his  other  associates  were  the  luminaries  who  attended  Mallarme's 

famous  Tuesday  night  soirees  Oscar 

Wilde,  W.  B.  Yeats,  Stefan  George,  Paul  Valery,  the  young  Andre  Gide 

and 

Marcel  Proust. 

In  themselves  Debussy's  and  Mallarme  circles  were  steeped  in  esoterica. 

At  the  same  time,  they  overlapped  circles  that  were  more  esoteric 

still.  Thus 

Debussy  consorted  with  virtually  all  the  most  prominent  names  in  the 

so-called  French  'occult  revival'.  One  of  these  was  the  Marquis 

Stanislas  de  Guaita,  an  intimate  of  Emma  Calve  and  founder  of  the 

so-called 

Cabalistic  Order  of  the  Rose  Croix  A  second  was  Jules  Bois,  a  notorious  satanist,  another 

intimate  of  Emma  Calve  and  a  friend  of  MacGregor  Mathers. 

Prompted  by  Jules  Bois,  Mathers  established  the  most  famous  British  occult  society  of  the 

period,  the  Order  of  the  Golden  Dawn. 

Another  occultist  of  Debussy's  acquaintance  was  Doctor  Gerard  Encausse  better  known 

as  Papus,zs  under  which  name  he  published  what  is  still  considered  one  of  the  definitive 

works  on  the  Tarot.  Papus  was  not  only  a  member  of  numerous  esoteric  orders  and 

societies,  but  also  a  confidant  of  the  czar  and  czarina,  Nicholas  and  Alexandra  of  Russia. 

And  among  Papus's  closest  associates  was  a  name  which  had  already 

figured  in  our  inquiry  that  of  Jules  Doinel.  In  1890  Doinel  had  become 

librarian  at  Carcassonne  and  established  a  neo-Cathar  church  in  the 

Languedoc  in  which  he  and 

Papus  functioned  as  bishops.  Doinel  in  fact  proclaimed  himself  Gnostic 


148 


bishop  of  Mirepoix,  which  included  the  parish  of  Montsegur,  and  of 

Met,  which  included  the  parish  of  Rennes-  leChateau. 

Doinel's  church  was  supposedly  consecrated  by  an  eastern  bishop  in 

Paris  at  the  home,  interestingly  enough,  of  Lady  Caithness,  wife  of  the 

earl  of 

Caithness,  Lord  James  Sinclair.  In  retrospect  this  church  seems  to  have  been  merely 

another  innocuous  sect  or  cult,  like  so  many  of  the  fin  de  siecle.  At  the  time,  however,  it 

caused  considerable  alarm  in  official  quarters.  A  special  report  was  prepared  for  the  Holy 

Office  of  the  Vatican  on  the  "resurgence  of  Cathar  tendencies'.  And  the  pope  issued  and 

explicit  condemnation  of  Doinel's  institution,  which  he  militantly  denounced  as  a  new 

manifestation  of  'the  ancient  Albigensian  heresy'. 

Notwithstanding  the  Vatican's  condemnation,  Doinel,  by  the  mid-1 890s, 

was  active  in  Sauniere's  home  territory  and  at  precisely  the  time  that 

the  cure  of  Rennes-leChateau  began  to  flaunt  his  wealth.  The  two  men 

may  well  have  been  introduced  by  Debussy.  Or  by  Emma  Calve.  Or  by  the 

Abbe  Henri 

Boudet  cure  of  Rennes-les-Bains,  best  friend  of  Sauniere  and  colleague 

of 

Doinel  in  the  Society  of  Arts  and  Sciences  of  Carcassonne. 

One  of  the  closest  of  Debussy's  occult  contacts  was  Josephin  Peladan 

another  friend  of  Papus  and,  predictably  enough,  another  intimate  of 

Emma 

Calve.  In  1889  Peladan  embarked  on  a  visit  to  the  Holy  Land.  When  he 

returned  he  claimed  to  have  discovered  Jesus's  tomb  not  at  the 

traditional  site  of  the  Holy  Sepulchre  but  under  the  Mosque  of  Omar, 

formerly  part  of  the  Templars'  enclave.  In  the  words  of  an 

enthusiastic  admirer,  Pdadan's  alleged  discovery  was  'so  astonishing 

that  at  any  other  era  it  would  have  shaken  the  Catholic  world  to  its 

foundations'. ze  Neither 

Peladan  nor  his  associates,  however,  volunteered  any  indication  of 

how 

Jesus's  tomb  could  have  been  so  definitively  identified  and  verified  as  such,  nor  why  its 

discovery  should  necessarily  shake  the  Catholic  world  unless,  of  course,  it  contained 

something  significant,  controversial,  perhaps  even  explosive.  In  any  case,  Peladan  did 

not  elaborate  on  his  purported  discovery.  But  though  a  self-professed  Catholic,  he 

nevertheless  insisted  on  Jesus's  mortality. 

In  1890  Peladan  founded  a  new  order  the  Order  of  the  Catholic 


149 


Rose-Croix,  the  Temple  and  the  Grail.  And  this  order,  unlike  the 

other  Rose-Croix  institutions  of  the  period,  somehow  escaped  papal  condemnation.  In  the 

meantime,  P61adan  turned  his  attention  increasingly  to  the  arts.  The  artist,  he  declared, 

should  be  'a  knight  in  armour,  eagerly  engaged  in  the  symbolic  quest  for  the  Holy  Grail'. 

And  in  adherence  to  this  principle,  P61adan  embarked  on  a  fully  fledged 

aesthetic  crusade.  It  took  the  form  of  a  highly  publici  sed  series  of 

annual  exhibitions,  known  as  the  Salon  de  la  Rose  +  Croix  whose  avowed 

purpose  was  'to  ruin  realism,  reform  Latin  taste  and  create  a  school  of 

idealist  art'.  To  that  end  certain  themes  and  subjects  were 

autocratically  and  summarily  rejected  as  unworthy  'no  matter  how  well 

executed,  even  if  perfectly'.  The  list  of  rejected  themes  and  subjects 

included  'prosaic'  history  painting,  patriotic  and  military  painting, 

representations  of  contemporary  life,  portraits,  rustic  scenes  and  'alt 

landscapes  except  those  composed  in  the  manner  of  Poussin'.2' 

Nor  did  P61adan  confine  himself  to  painting.  On  the  contrary,  he  attempted  to  promulgate 

his  aesthetic  in  music  and  the  theatre  as  well.  He  formed  his  own  theatre  company,  which 

performed  specially  composed  works  on  such  subjects  as  Orpheus,  the  Argonauts  and 

the  Quest  for  the  Golden  Fleece,  the  "Mystery  of  the  Rose-Croix'  and  the  "Mystery  of  the 

Grail'.  One  of  the  regular  promoters  and  patrons  of  these  productions  was  Claude 

Debussy. 

Among  Peladan's  and  Debussy's  other  associates  was  Maurice  Barres  who,  as  a  young 

man,  had  been  involved  in  a  "Rose-Croix'  circle  with  Victor  Hugo. 

In  1912  Barres  published  his  most  famous  novel,  La  Colline  inspiree 

("The 

Inspired  Mount').  Certain  modern  commentators  have  suggested  that  his 

work  is  in  fact  a  thinly  disguised  allegory  of  Berenger  Sauniere  and 

Rennes-leChateau.  Certainly  there  are  parallels  which  would  seem  too  striking  to  be 

wholly  coincidental.  But  Barres  does  not  situate  his  narrative  in  Rennes-leChateau,  or  any 

other  place  in  the  Languedoc.  On  the  contrary,  the  'inspired  mount'  of  the  title  is  a 

mountain  surmounted  by  a  village  in  Lorraine,  And  the  village  is  the  old  pilgrimage  centre 

of  Sion. 

Jean  Cocteau 


150 


More  than  Charles  Radclyffe,  more  than  Charles  Nodier,  Jean  Cocteau 

seemed  to  us  a  most  unlikely  candidate  for  the  Grand  Mastership  of  an  influential  secret 

society.  In  Radclyffe's  and  Nodier's  cases,  however,  our  investigation  had  yielded  certain 

connections  of  considerable  interest.  In  Cocteau's  we  discovered  very  few. 

Certainly  he  was  raised  in  a  milieu  close  to  the  "corridors  of  power'  his  family  were 

politically  prominent  and  his  uncle  was  an  important  diplomat. 

But  Cocteau,  at  least  ostensibly,  abandoned  this  world,  leaving  home  at  the  age  of  fifteen 

and  plunging  into  the  seedy  sub-culture  of  Marseilles.  By  1908  he  had  established  himself 

in  bohemian  artistic  circles.  In  his  early  twenties  he  became  associated  with  Proust,  Gide 

and  Maurice  Barres.  He  was  also  a  close  friend  of  Victor  Hugo's  great-grandson,  jean, 

with  whom  he  embarked  on  assorted  excursions  into  spiritualism  and  the  occult.  He 

quickly  became  versed  in  esoterica;  and  Hermetic  thinking  shaped  not  only  much  of  his 

work,  but  also  his  entire  aesthetic.  By  1 91 2,  if  not  earlier,  he  had  begun  to  consort  with 

Debussy,  to  whom  he  alludes  frequently,  if  noncommittally  in  his  journals.  In  1926  he 

designed  the  set  for  a  production  of  the  opera  Pelleas  et  Melisande  because,  according 

to  one  commentator,  he  was  "unable  to  resist  linking  his  name  for  all  time  to  that  of  Claude 

Debussy'. 

Cocteau's  private  life  which  included  bouts  of  drug  addiction  and  a 

sequence  of  homosexual  affairs  was  notoriously  erratic.  This  has 

fostered  an  image  of  him  as  a  volatile  and  recklessly  irresponsible 

individual.  In  fact,  however,  he  was  always  acutely  conscious  of  his 

public  persona;  and  whatever  his  personal  escapades,  he  would  not  let 

them  impede  his  access  to  people  of  influence  and  power.  As  he  himself 

admitted,  he  had  always  craved  public  recognition,  honour,  esteem,  even 

admission  to  the  Academie 

Franqaise.  And  he  made  a  point  of  conforming  sufficiently  to  assure 

him  of  the  status  he  sought.  Thus  he  was  never  far  removed  from 

prominent  figures  like  Jacques  Maritain  and  Andre  Malraux.  Although 

never  ostensibly  interested  in  politics,  he  denounced  the  Vichy 

government  during  the  war  and  seems  to  have  been  quietly  in  league  with 

the  Resistance.  In  1949  he  was  made  a  Chevalier  of  the  Legion  of 


151 


Honour.  In  1958  he  was  invited  by  de  Gaulle's  brother  to  make  a 

public  address  on  the  general  subject  of 

France.  It  is  not  the  kind  of  role  one  generally  attributes  to  Cocteau,  but  he  appears  to 

have  played  it  frequently  enough  and  to  have  relished  doing  so. 

For  a  good  part  of  his  life,  Cocteau  was  associated  -sometimes  intimately,  sometimes 

peripherally  with  royalist  Catholic  circles.  Here  he  frequently  hobnobbed  with  members  of 

the  old  aristocracy  including  some  of  Proust's  friends  and  patrons.  At  the  same  time, 

however,  Cocteau's  Catholicism  was  highly  suspect,  highly  unorthodox,  and  seems  to 

have  been  more  an  aesthetic  than  a  religious  commitment. 

In  the  latter  part  of  his  life,  he  devoted  much  of  his  energy  to 

redecorating  churches  -curious  echo,  perhaps,  of 

Berenger  Sauniere.  Yet  even  then  his  piety  was  questionable:  "They  take  me  for  a 

religious  painter  because  I've  decorated  a  chapel. 

Always  the  same  mania  for  labelling  people. "a 

Like  Sauniere,  Cocteau,  in  his  redecorations,  incorporated  certain 

curious  and  suggestive  details.  Some  are  visible  in  the  church  of 

Notre  Dame  de 

France,  around  the  corner  from  Leicester  Square  in  London.  The  church 

itself  dates  from  1865  and  may,  at  its  consecration,  have  had  certain 

Masonic  connections.  In  1 940,  at  the  peak  of  the  blitz,  it  was 

seriously  damaged.  Nevertheless,  it  remained  the  favourite  centre  of 

worship  for  many  important  members  of  the  Free  French  Forces;  and  after 

the  war  it  was  restored  and  redecorated  by  artists  from  all  over 

France.  Among  them  was 

Cocteau,  who,  in  1960,  three  years  before  his  death,  executed  a  mural  depicting  the 

Crucifixion.  It  is  an  extremely  singular  Crucifixion.  There  is  a  black  sun,  and  a  sinister, 

green-tinged  and  unidentified  figure  in  the  lower  right-hand  corner.  There  is  a  Roman 

soldier  holding  a  shield  with  a  bird  emblazoned  on  it  a  highly  styli  sed  bird  suggesting  an 

Egyptian  rendering  of  Horus.  Among  the  mourning  women  and  dice-throwing  centurions, 

there  are  two  incongruously  modern  figures  -one  of  whom  is  Cocteau  himself,  presented 

as  a  self  portrait  with  his  back  significantly  turned  on  the  cross.  Most  striking  of  all  is  the 

fact  that  the  mural  depicts  only  the  lower  portion  of  the  cross. 

Whoever  hangs  upon  it  is  visible  only  as  far  up  as  the  knees  so  that 

one  cannot  see  the  face,  or  determine  the  identity  of  who  is  being 


152 


crucified.  And  fixed  to  the  cross,  immediately  below  the  anonymous 

victim's  feet,  is  a  gigantic  rose.  The  design,  in  short,  is  a  flagrant  Rose-Croix  device.  And 

if  nothing  else,  it  is  a  very  singular  motif  for  a  Catholic  church. 

The  Two  John  XXH Is 

The  Dossiers  secrets,  in  which  the  list  of  Sion's  alleged  Grand  Masters 

appeared,  were  dated  1956.  Cocteau  did  not  die  until  1963.  There  was 

thus  no  indication  of  who  might  have  succeeded  him,  or  of  who  might 

preside  over  the 

Prieure  de  Sion  at  present.  But  Cocteau  himself  posed  one  additional  point  of  immense 

interest. 

Until  the  'cutting  of  the  elm'  in  1 188,  the  "Prieure  documents' 

asserted, 

Sion  and  the  Order  of  the  Temple  shared  the  same  Grand  Master.  After 

1188 

Sion  is  said  to  have  chosen  a  Grand  Master  of  its  own,  the  first  of 

them  being  jean  de  Gisors.  According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  every 

Grand 

Master,  on  assuming  his  position,  has  adopted  the  name  of  jean  (John) 

or,  since  there  were  four  women,  Jeanne  (Joan).  Sion's  Grand  Masters 

are  therefore  alleged  to  have  comprised  a  continuous  succession  of 

jeans  and 

Jeannes,  from  1 188  to  the  present.  This  succession  was  clearly  intended  to  imply  an 

esoteric  and  Hermetic  papacy  based  on  John,  in  contrast  (and  perhaps  opposition)  to  the 

exoteric  one  based  on  Peter. 

One  major  question,  of  course,  was  which  John.  John  the  Baptist?  John 

the 

Evangelist  the  "Beloved  Disciple'  in  the  Fourth  Gospel?  Or  John  the 

Divine,  author  of  the  Book  of  Revelation?  It  seemed  it  must  be  one  of 

these  three  because  jean  de  Gisors  in  1 1 88  had  purportedly  taken  the 

title  of 

Jean  II.  Who,  then,  was  jean  I? 

Whatever  the  answer  to  that  question,  jean  Cocteau  appeared  on  the  list 

of 

Sion's  alleged  Grand  Masters  as  jean  XXIII.  In  1 959,  while  Cocteau 

still  presumably  held  the  Grand  Mastership,  Pope  Pius  XII  died  and  the 

assembled  cardinals  elected,  as  their  new  pontiff,  Cardinal  Angelo 

Roncalli  of 

Venice.  Any  newly  elected  pope  chooses  his  own  name;  and  Cardinal  Roncalli  caused 

considerable  consternation  when  he  chose  the  name  of  John  XXIII. 

Such  consternation  was  not  unjustified.  In  the  first  place  the  name 


153 


"John'  had  been  implicitly  anathematised  since  it  was  last  used  in  the 

early  fifteenth  century  by  an  antipope.  Moreover,  there  had  already  been  a  John  XXIII. 

The  antipope  who  abdicated  in  1415  and  who,  interestingly  enough,  had  previously  been 

bishop  of  Met  was  in  fact  John  XXIII.  It  was  thus  unusual,  to  say  the  least,  for  Cardinal 

Roncalli  to  assume  the  same  name. 

In  1976  an  enigmatic  little  book  was  published  in  Italy  and  soon  after  translated  into 

French.  It  was  called  The  Prophecies  o  f  Pope  John  XXIII  and  contained  a  compilation  of 

obscure  prophetic  prose  poems  reputedly  composed  by  the  pontiff  who  had  died  thirteen 

years  before  in  1963,  the  same  year  as  Cocteau.  For  the  most  part  these  'prophecies'  are 

extremely  opaque  and  defy  any  coherent  interpretation.  Whether  they  are  indeed  the 

work  of  John  XXIII  is  also  open  to  question.  But  the  introduction  to  the  work  maintains 

that  they  are  Pope  John's  work. 

And  it  maintains  something  further  as  well  that  John  XXIII  was  secretly 

a  member  of  the  "Rose-Croix',  with  whom  he  had  become  affiliated  while 

acting  as  Papal 

Nuncio  to  Turkey  in  1935. 

Needless  to  say,  this  assertion  sounds  increflible.  Certainly  it  cannot  be  proved,  and  we 

found  no  external  evidence  to  support  it.  But  why,  we  wondered,  should  such  an 

assertion  even  have  been  made  in  the  first  place? 

Could  it  be  true  after  all?  Could  there  be  at  least  a  grain  of  truth  in  it? 

In  1 188  the  Prieure  de  Sion  is  said  to  have  adopted  the  subtitle  of 

"Rose-Croix  Veritas'.  If  Pope  John  was  affiliated  with  a  "Rose-Croix' 

organisation,  and  if  that  organisation  was  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  the 

implications  would  be  extremely  intriguing.  Among  other  things  they 

would  suggest  that  Cardinal  Roncalli,  on  becoming  pope,  chose  the  name 

of  his  own  seci,et  Grand  Master  so  that,  for  some  symbolic  reason, 

there  would  be  a 

John  XXIII  presiding  over  Sion  and  the  papacy  simultaneously. 

In  any  case  the  simultaneous  rule  of  a  John  (or  jean)  XXIII  over  both 

Sion  and  Rome  would  seem  to  be  an  extraordinary  coincidence.  Nor  could 

the  "Prieure  documents'  have  devised  a  list  to  create  such  a 

coincidence  a  list  which  culminated  with  jean  XXIII  at  the  same  time 

that  a  man  with  that  title  occupied  the  throne  of  Saint  Peter.  For  the 

list  of  Sion's  alleged 


154 


Grand  Masters  had  been  composed  and  deposited  in  the  Bibliotheque 

Nationale  no  later  than  1956  three  years  before  John  XXIII  became  pope. 

There  was  another  striking  coincidence:  In  the  twelfth  century  an  Irish  monk  named 

Malachi  compiled  a  series  of  Nostradamus-like  prophecies. 

In  these  prophecies  -which,  incidentally,  are  said  to  be  highly 

esteemed  by  many  important  Roman  Catholics,  including  the  present  pope, 

John-Paul  II  Malachai  enumerates  the  pontiffs  who  will  occupy  the 

throne  of  Saint  Peter  in  the  centuries  to  come.  For  each  pontiff  he 

offers  a  species  of  descriptive  motto.  And  for  John  XXIII  the  motto, 

translated  into  French,  is  "Pasteur  et  Nautonnier'  -  "Shepherd  and 

Navigator'."  The  official  title  of 

Sion's  alleged  Grand  Master  is  also  "Nautonnier'. 

Whatever  the  truth  underlying  these  strange  coincidences,  there  is  no 

question  that  more  than  any  other  man  Pope  John  XXIII  was  responsible 

for  re-orienting  the  Roman  Catholic  Church  and  bringing  it,  as 

commentators  have  frequently  said,  into  the  twentieth  century.  Much  of 

this  was  accomplished  by  the  reforms  of  the  Second  Vatican  Council, 

which  John  inaugurated.  At  the  same  time,  however,  John  was 

responsible  for  other  changes  as  well.  He  revised  the  Church's 

position  on  Freemasonry,  for  example  breaking  with  at  least  two 

centuries  of  entrenched  tradition  and  pronouncing  that  a  Catholic  might 

be  a  Freemason.  And  in  June  1960  he  issued  a  profoundly  important 

apostolic  letter  .3  This  missive  addressed  itself  specifically  to  the 

subject  of  "The  Precious  Blood  of  Jesus'.  It  ascribed  a  hitherto 

unprecedented  significance  to  that  blood.  It  emphasised 

Jesus's  suffering  as  a  human  being,  and  maintained  that  the  redemption 

of  mankind  had  been  effected  by  the  shedding  of  his  blood.  In  the 

context  of 

Pope  John's  letter,  Jesus's  human  Passion,  and  the  shedding  of  his  blood,  assume  a 

greater  consequence  than  the  Resurrection  or  even  than  the  mechanics  of  the  Crucifixion. 

The  implications  of  this  letter  are  ultimately  enormous.  As  one 

commentator  has  observed,  they  alter  the  whole  basis  of  Christian 

belief.  If  man's  redemption  was  achieved  by  the  shedding  of  Jesus's 

blood,  his  death  and  resurrection  became  incidental  if  not,  indeed, 


155 


superfluous.  Jesus  need  not  have  died  on  the  cross  for  the  faith  to 


156 


retain  its  validity.  7  Conspiracy  through  the  Centuries 

How  were  we  to  synthesise  the  evidence  we  had  accumulated?  Much  of  it 

was  impressive  and  seemed  to  bear  witness  to  something  some  pattern, 

some  coherent  design.  The  list  of  Sion's  alleged  Grand  Masters, 

however  improbable  it  had  originally  appeared,  now  displayed  some 

intriguing  consistencies.  Most  of  the  figures  on  the  list,  for 

example,  were  connected,  either  by  blood  or  personal  association,  with 

the  families  whose  genealogies  figured  in  the  "Prieurcl  documents'  and 

particularly  with  the  house  of 

Lorraine.  Most  of  the  figures  on  the  list  were  involved  with  orders  of  one  kind  or  another, 

or  with  secret  societies.  Virtually  all  the  figures  on  the  list,  even  when  nominally  Catholic, 

held  unorthodox  religious  beliefs. 

Virtually  all  of  them  were  immersed  in  esoteric  thought  and  tradition.  And  in  almost  every 

case  there  had  been  some  species  of  close  contact  between  an  alleged  Grand  Master,  his 

predecessor  and  his  successor. 

Nevertheless,  these  consistencies,  impressive  though  they  might  be,  did 

not  necessarily  prove  anything.  They  did  not  prove,  for  instance,  that 

the 

Prieure  de  Sion,  whose  existence  during  the  Middle  Ages  we  had 

confirmed,  had  actually  continued  to  survive  through  the  subsequent 

centuries.  Still  less  did  they  prove  that  the  individuals  cited  as 

Grand  Masters  actually  held  that  position.  It  still  seemed  incredible 

to  us  that  some  of  them  really  did.  So  far  as  certain  individuals  were 

concerned,  the  age  at  which  they  allegedly  became  Grand  Master  argued 

against  them.  Granted,  it  was  possible  that  Edouard  de  Bar  might  have 

been  selected  Grand  Master  at  the  age  of  five,  or  Rene  d'Anjou  at  the 

age  of  eight,  on  the  basis  of  some  hereditary  principle.  But  no  such 

principle  seemed  to  obtain  for  Robert 

Fludd  or  Charles  Nodier,  who  both  supposedly  became  Grand  Master  at  the  age  of 

twenty-one,  or  for  Debussy,  who  supposedly  did  so  aged  twenty-three. 


157 


Such  individuals  would  not  have  had  time  to  'work  their  way  up  through 

the  ranks',  as  one  might,  for  example,  in  Freemasonry.  Nor  had  they  even  become  solidly 

established  in  their  own  spheres.  This  anomaly  made  no  apparent  sense.  Unless  one 

assumed  that  Sion's  Grand  Mastership  was  often  purely  symbolic,  a  ritual  position 

occupied  by  a  figurehead  a  figurehead  who,  perhaps,  was  not  even  aware  of  the  status 

accorded  him. 

However,  it  proved  futile  to  speculate  at  least  on  the  basis  of  the 

information  we  possessed.  We  therefore  turned  back  to  history  again, 

seeking  evidence  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  elsewhere,  in  quarters  other 

than  the  list  of  alleged  Grand  Masters.  We  turned  particularly  to  the 

fortunes  of  the  house  of  Lorraine,  and  some  of  the  other  families  cited 

in  the 

"Prieure  documents'.  We  sought  to  verify  other  statements  made  in  those  documents. 

And  we  sought  additional  evidence  for  the  work  of  a  secret  society,  acting  more  or  less 

covertly  behind  the  scenes. 

If  it  was  indeed  genuinely  secret,  we  did  not,  of  course,  expect  to 

find  the  Prieure  de  Sion  explicitly  mentioned  by  that  name.  If  it  had 

continued  to  function  through  the  centuries,  it  would  have  done  so 

under  a  variety  of  shifting  guises  and  masks,  "fronts'  and  faqades  just 

as  it  purportedly  functioned  for  a  time  under  the  name  Ormus,  which  it 

discarded.  Nor  would  it  have  displayed  a  single  obvious  and  specific 

policy,  political  position  or  prevailing  attitude.  Indeed,  any  such 

cohesive  and  unified  stance,  even  if  it  could  be  gleaned,  would  have 

seemed  highly  suspect.  If  we  were  dealing  with  an  organisation  which 

had  survived  for  some  nine  centuries,  we  would  have  to  credit  it  with 

considerable  flexibility  and  adaptability.  Its  very  survival  would 

have  hinged  on  these  qualities;  and  without  them  it  would  have 

degenerated  into  an  empty  form,  as  devoid  of  any  real  power  as,  say, 

the  Yeomen  of  the  Guard.  In  short,  the  Prieure  de  Sion  could  not  have 

remained  rigid  and  immutable  for  the  whole  of  its  history.  On  the 

contrary,  it  would  have  been  compelled  to  change  periodically,  modify 

itself  and  its  activities,  adjust  itself  and  its  objectives  to  the 

shifting  kaleidoscope  of  world  affairs  just  as  cavalry  units  during  the 

last  century  have  been  compelled  to  exchange  their  horses  for  tanks  and 

armoured  cars.  In  its  capacity  to  conform  to  a  given  age  and  exploit 


158 


and  master  its  technology  and  resources,  Sion  would  have  constituted  a 

parallel  to  what  seemed  its  exoteric  rival,  the 

Roman  Catholic  Church;  or  perhaps,  to  cite  a  deceptively  sinister 

example,  to  the  organisation  known  as  the  Mafia.  We  did  not,  of 

course,  see  the 

Prieure  de  Sion  as  unadulterated  villains.  But  the  Mafia  at  least  provided  testimony  of 

how,  by  adapting  itself  from  age  to  age,  a  secret  society  could  exist,  and  of  the  kind  of 

power  it  could  exercise. 

The  Prieure  de  Sion  in  France 

According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  Sion  between  1306  and  1480 

possessed  nine  command  eries  In  1481when  Rene  d'Anjou  died  this  number 

was  supposedly  expanded  to  twenty-seven.  The  most  important  are  listed 

as  having  been  situated  at  Bourges,  Gisors,  Jarnac,  Mont  Saint-Michel, 

Montreval, 

Paris,  Le  Puy,  Solesmes  and  Stenay.  And,  the  Dossiers  secrets  add  cryptically,  there  was 

'an  arch  called  Beth-Ania  house  of  Anne  situated  at  Rennes-leChateau'."  It  is  not  clear 

precisely  what  this  passage  means,  except  that  Rennes-leChateau  would  appear  to  enjoy 

some  kind  of  highly  special  significance.  And  surely  it  cannot  be  coincidental  that 

Sauniere,  on  building  his  villa,  then  christened  it  Villa  Bethania. 

According  to  the  Dossiers  secrets,  the  commandery  at  Gisors  dated  from  1306  and  was 

situated  in  the  rue  de  Vienne.  From  here  it  supposedly  communicated,  via  an 

underground  passageway,  with  the  local  cemetery  and  with  the  subterranean  chapel  of 

Sainte-Catherine  located  beneath  the  fortress.  In  the  sixteenth  century  this  chapel,  or 

perhaps  a  crypt  adjacent  to  it,  is  said  to  have  become  a  depository  for  the  archives  of  the 

Prieure  de  Sion,  housed  in  thirty  coffers. 

Early  in  1944,  when  Gisors  was  occupied  by  German  personnel,  a  special 

military  mission  was  sent  from  Berlin,  with  instructions  to  plan  a 

series  of  excavations  beneath  the  fortress.  The  Allied  invasion  of 

Normandy  thwarted  any  such  undertaking;  but  not  long  after,  a  French 

workman  named 

Roger  Lhomoy  embarked  on  excavations  of  his  own.  In  1946  Lhomoy 

announced  to  the  Mayor  of  Gisors  that  he  had  found  an  underground 


159 


chapel  containing  nineteen  sarcophagi  of  stone  and  thirty  coffers  of 
metal.  His  petition  to  excavate  further,  and  make  public  his 
discovery,  was  delayed  almost  deliberately,  it  might  seem  by  a  welter 
of  official  red  tape.  At  last,  in  1962,  Lhomoy  commenced  his  requested 
excavations  at 

Gisors.  They  were  conducted  under  the  auspices  of  Andre  Malraux, 
French 

Minister  of  Culture  at  the  time,  and  were  not  officially  open  to  the  public. 
Certainly  no  coffers  or  sarcophagi  were  found.  Whether  the  underground 
chapel  was  found  has  been  debated  in  the  press,  as  well  as  in  various 
books  and  articles.  Lhomoy  insisted  he  did  find  his  way  again  to  the 
chapel,  but  its  contents  had  been  removed.  Whatever  the  truth  of  the 
matter,  there  is  mention  of  the  subterranean  chapel  of  Sainte-Catherine 
in  two  old  manuscripts,  one  dated  1696  and  the  other  1375.1 

On  this  basis,  Lhomoy's  story  at  least  becomes  plausible.  So  does  the  assertion  that  the 
subterranean  chapel  was  a  depository  for  Sion's  archives.  For  we,  in  our  own  research, 
found  conclusive  proof  that  the  Prieure  de  Sion  continued  to  exist  for  at  least  three 
centuries  after  the  Crusades  and  the  dissolution  of  the  Knights  Templar.  Between  the 
early  fourteenth  and  early  seventeenth  centuries,  for  example,  documents  pertinent  to 
Orleans,  and  to  Sion's  base  there  at  Saint-Samson,  make  sporadic  references  to  the 
Order.  Thus  it  is  on  record  that  in  the  early  sixteenth  century  members  of  the  Prieure  de 
Sion  at  Orleans  by  flouting  their  "rule'  and  "refusing  to  live  in  common'  incurred  the 
displeasure  of  the  pope  and  the  king  of  France.  Towards  the  end  of  the  fifteenth  century 
the  Order  was  also  accused  of  a  number  of  of  fences  failing  to  observe  their  rule,  living 
"individually'  rather  than  "in  common',  being  licentious,  residing  outside  the  walls  of  Saint- 
Samson,  boycotting  divine  services  and  neglecting  to  rebuild  the  walls  of  the  house,  which 
had  been  seriously  damaged  in  1562.  By  1619  the  authorities  seemed  to  have  lost 
patience. 

In  that  year,  according  to  the  records,  the  Prieure  de  Sion  was  evicted 
from 

Saint-Samson  and  the  house  was  made  over  to  the  Jesuit  s.3 
From  1619  onwards  we  could  find  no  reference  to  the  Prieure  de  Sion 
not,  at  any  rate,  under  that  name.  But  if  nothing  else,  we  could  at 
least  prove  its  existence  until  the  seventeenth  century.  And  yet  the 
proof  itself,  such  as  it  was,  raised  a  number  of  crucial  questions.  In 


160 


the  first  place  the  references  we  found  cast  no  light  whatever  on  Map 

6  The  Duchy  of  Lorraine  in  the  Mid-Sixteenth  Century 

V-  HESSE 

LIEGE  ~.ll' 

~g~WO 

GERMAN  STATES 

:::  I  1IKRAIN 

FRANCE  WURTTEMBERG 

FRANC  HEv 

COMI  E 

SWISS  CONFEDERACY 

Sion's  real  activities,  objectives,  interests  or  possible  influence.  In  the  second  place  these 

references,  it  seemed,  bore  witness  only  to  something  of  trifling  consequence  a  curiously 

elusive  fraternity  of  monks  or  religious  devotees  whose  behaviour,  though  unorthodox  and 

perhaps  clandestine,  was  of  relatively  minor  import.  We  could  not  reconcile  the 

apparently  remiss  occupants  of  Saint  Samson  with  the  celebrated  and  legendary  Rose- 

Croix,  or  a  band  of  wayward  monks  with  an  institution  whose  Grand  Masters  supposedly 

comprised  some  of  the  most  illustrious  names  in  Western  history  and  culture. 

According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  Sion  was  an  organisation  of  considerable  power 

and  influence,  responsible  for  creating  the  Templars  and  manipulating  the  course  of 

international  affairs.  The  references  we  found  suggested  nothing  of  such  magnitude. 

One  possible  explanation,  of  course,  was  that  Saint  Samson  at  Orleans 

was  but  an  isolated  seat,  and  probably  a  minor  one,  of  Sion's 


161 


activities.  And  indeed,  the  list  of  Sion's  important  command  eries  in 

the  Dossiers  secrets  does  not  even  include 

Orleans.  If  Sion  was  in  fact  a  force  to  be  reckoned  with,  Orleans  can  only  have  been  one 

small  fragment  of  a  much  broader  pattern.  And  if  this  were  the  case,  we  would  have  to 

look  for  traces  of  the  Order  elsewhere. 

The  Dukes  of  Guise  and  Lorraine 

During  the  sixteenth  century  the  house  of  Lorraine  and  its  cadet  branch,  the  house  of 

Guise,  made  a  concerted  and  determined  attempt  to  topple  the  Valois  dynasty  of  France 

to  exterminate  the  Valois  line  and  claim  the  French  throne.  This  attempt,  on  several 

occasions,  came  within  a  hair's  breadth  of  dazzling  success.  In  the  course  of  some  thirty 

years  all  Valois  rulers,  heirs  and  princes  were  wiped  out,  and  the  line  driven  to  extinction. 

The  attempt  to  seize  the  French  throne  extended  across  three 

generations  of  the  Guise  and  Lorraine  families.  It  came  closest  to 

success  in  the  1550s  and  1560s  under  the  auspices  of  Charles,  Cardinal 

of  Lorraine  and  his  brother,  Francois,  Duke  of  Guise.  Charles  and 

Franqois  were  related  to  the 

Gonzaga  family  of  Mantua  and  to  Charles  de  Montpensier,  Constable  of 

Bourbon  listed  in  the  Dossiers  secrets  as  Grand  Master  of  Sion  until 

1527.  Moreover,  Francois,  Duke  of  Guise,  was  married  to  Anne  d'Este, 

Duchess  of  Gisors.  And  in  his  machinations  for  the  throne  he  seems  to 

have  received  covert  aid  and  support  from  Ferrante  de  Gonzaga, 

allegedly  Grand 

Master  of  Sion  from  1527  until  1575. 

Both  Francois  and  his  brother,  the  cardinal  of  Lorraine,  have  been  stigmatised  by  later 

historians  as  rabidly  bigoted  and  fanatic  Catholics,  intolerant,  brutal  and  bloodthirsty.  But 

there  is  substantial  evidence  to  suggest  that  this  reputation  is  to  some  extent  unwarranted, 

at  least  so  far  as  adherence  to  Catholicism  is  concerned. 

Francois  and  his  brother  appear,  quite  patently,  to  have  been  brazen, 

if  cunning,  opportunists,  courting  both  Catholics  and  Protestants  in 

the  name  of  their  ulterior  design."  In  1562,  for  example,  at  the 

Council  of  Trent,  the  cardinal  of  Lorraine  launched  an  attempt  to 


162 


decentralise  the  papacy  to  confer  autonomy  on  local  bishops  and  1  The 

Dukes  of  Guise  and  Lofraine 

LOUIS  II  IO  LANDE  D'AMGON 

Duke  of  Ml, 

CF-AR.  VII  -MARIE  DANJOUD'ANJOUISOBEL  DE  LORRAINE 

b  F_  D.4<  of  B<r  1  30d.   1157 

DO,  of  Lurrwne  1131 

GM  l.rf  d<  Srw  fra.   1 1 18JEANNE  DE  LA  VAL  d.  1 180 

HENRY  VI  MARGUERITE  ID  LANDE  D  "ANJOU  FERRY  1 1CHARLES  SEAN  D'ANJOU 

of  Ead<vd  D'ANJt3UGM  frwur6  d<  Sim  imd<  V<udcmonrD  "ANJOU  Duo  of  Lo 

run 

Imm  1180d1473Counrof  Mwrr<  d."70  d.  110.1  d.  1177 

RENE  II  WANJOU  -  PNILB'PINE  DE  GUELDRE 

DE  of  Lnrnnw  <M  B<rd  1 51 7  d.  1 508 

Hour  of  Bourbon 

OOUDE-ANBOMRTTN  JEAN  ANTOINE  II  RENEE  CHARLES 

DE  LORRAINE  DE  BOURBON  DE  LORRAINE  DE  LORRAINE  DE  BOURBON  DE 

BOURBON 

lwDdL<of  GmwClrdm.l  of  Lornm<d.  151 1G  .M.  Rrear2  de  Son  d.  1350 

from  1519  d  1577 

FRAN[OIS  DE  LORRAINE-  CHR6TIANA 

d.  1515  OF  DENMARK 

MARIE  DE  GUISE  T  JAMES  V  FRANL'OIS-ANNE  D'ESTECHARLES  DE  GUISE 

Prw59f  d<5ion  hac  15571 

MARY  CLAUDIA  CHARLES  III 

DE  FRANCETDE  LORRAINE 

d.  1608 

HE— DE  GUISE  CA7HERINtLOUISMARGUERHt-  HENRY  II  d.  1388  DF 

CLEVESC<rd~nal  of  GwuDE  GONZAGA  DE  LORRAINE  d  1598  d  16N 

CHARLES  DE  GUISE  HENRIETT  E  NIIOLAS-FRAN(.OIS  -("LAUDE  DE 

LORRAINE 

d.  1610  DE  JOYEUSEDE  LORRAINE  r-  Ir7  9-n  ~ldd  d.  1670 

lhr~rher  of  S.harm  IVICHARLES  IV  NICOLE 

DE  LORRAINE  DE  LORRAINE 

ANNE  DE  GONZAGA-  HEN  Rl  II 

DE  GUISE 

tMPERORFERDINANDIII 

_l 

Hm'l  ".f  SwBr  f  1  CHARLES  VI  LEONORE-MARIE 

Vwnna  in  1681  IDE  LORRAINFT  VON  HABSBURG  I  d.  1765 

ELIZABETH  U'O  LFOPOLD  DE  LORRAINE 

d.  1729 

CHARLES  DE  LORRAPIEFRAN-OIS  DL  ORRAINEMARIE.TERESA 

GM.   PrwvideSawd.  1765VON  HABSBURG  6w  1716  E  .W- d  Ad.  1780  d. 

1790 

1 1  arh<r  <hddrtn  LOUIS  KVI    MARIE-ANTOINETTEMAJaMILLAN 


163 


VON  HABSRURGLORRABNE 

of  F<9wtt  VON  HABSBURG-LORRMNEG  .M.  ~  d<  Sm  horn 

17W 

d.  1793  d.  1793d.  1901 


164 


restore  the  ecclesiastical  hierarchy  to  what  it  had  been  in 

Merovingian  times. 

By  1563  Francois  de  Guise  was  already  virtually  king  when  he  fell  to  an 

assassin's  bullet.  His  brother,  the  cardinal  of  Lorraine,  died  twelve 

years  later,  in  1575.  But  the  vendetta  against  the  French  royal  line 

did  not  cease.  In  1 584  the  new  duke  of  Guise  and  new  cardinal  of 

Lorraine  embarked  on  a  fresh  assault  against  the  throne.  Their  chief 

ally  in  this  enterprise  was  Louis  de  Gonzaga,  Duke  of  Nevers  who, 

according  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  had  become  Grand  Master  of  Sion 

nine  years  before.  The  banner  of  the  conspirators  was  the  Cross  of 

Lorraine  the  former  emblem  of  Rene  d'Anjou.s 

The  feud  continued.  By  the  end  of  the  century  the  Valois  were  at  last  extinct.  But  the 

house  of  Guise  had  bled  itself  to  death  in  the  process,  and  could  put  forward  no  eligible 

candidate  for  a  throne  that  finally  lay  within  its  grasp. 

It  is  simply  not  known  whether  there  was  an  organised  secret  society,  or  secret  order, 

supporting  the  houses  of  Guise  and  Lorraine. 

Certainly  they  were  aided  by  an  international  network  of  emissaries, 

ambassadors,  assassins,  agents  provocateurs,  spies  and  agents  who  might 

well  have  comprised  such  a  clandestine  institution.  According  to 

Gerard  de  We,  one  of  these  agents  was  Nostradamus;  and  there  are  other 

"Prieure  documents'  which  echo  M.  de  We's  contention.  In  any  case, 

there  is  abundant  evidence  to  suggest  that  Nostradamus  was  indeed  a 

secret  agent  working  for  Franqois  de 

Guise  and  Charles,  Cardinal  of  Lorraine. s 

If  Nostradamus  was  an  agent  for  the  houses  of  Guise  and  Lorraine,  he 

would  have  been  responsible  not  only  for  providing  them  with  important 

information-concerning  the  activities  and  plans  of  their  adversaries, 

but  he  would  also,  in  his  capacity  as  astrologer  to  the  French  court, 

have  been  privy  to  all  manner  of  intimate  secrets,  as  well  as  quirks 

and  weaknesses  of  personality.  By  playing  on  vulnerabilities  with 

which  he  had  become  acquainted,  he  could  have  psychologically 

manipulated  the  Valois  into  the  hands  of  their  enemies.  And  by  virtue 

of  his  familiarity  with  their  horoscopes,  he  might  well  have  advised 

their  enemies  on,  say,  an  apparently  propitious  moment  for 

assassination.  Many  of  Nostradamus's  prophecies,  in  short,  may  not 


165 


have  been  prophecies  at  all.  They  may  have  been  cryptic  messages, 

ciphers,  schedules,  timetables,  instructions,  blueprints  for  action. 

Whether  this  was  actually  the  case  or  not,  there  is  no  question  that 

some  of  Nostradamus's  prophecies  were  not  prophecies  but  referred, 

quite  explicitly,  to  the  past  to  the  Knights  Templar,  the  Merovingian 

dynasty,  the  history  of  the  house  of  Lorraine.  A  striking  number  of 

them  refer  to  the  Razes  the  old  comte  of  Rennes-leChateau."  And  the 

numerous  quatrains  which  refer  to  the  advent  of  'le  Grand  Monarch'  the 

Great  Monarch  indicate  that  this  sovereign  will  derive  ultimately  from 

the  Languedoc.  Our  research  revealed  an  additional  fragment  which 

linked  Nostradamus  even  more  directly  to  our  investigation.  According 

to  Gerard  de  Sede,e  as  well  as  to  popular  legend,  Nostradamus,  before 

embarking  on  his  career  as  prophet,  spent  considerable  time  in 

Lorraine.  This  would  appear  to  have  been  some  sort  of  novitiate,  or 

period  of  probation,  after  which  he  was  supposedly  'initiated'  into 

some  portentous  secret.  More  specifically  he  is  said  to  have  been 

shown  an  ancient  and  arcane  book,  on  which  he  based  all  his  own 

subsequent  work.  And  this  book  was  reportedly  divulged  to  him  at  a 

very  significant  place  the  mysterious  Abbey  of  Orval,  donated  by 

Godfroi  de 

Bouillon's  foster-mother,  where  our  research  suggested  that  the  Prieure 

de 

Sion  may  have  had  its  inception.  In  any  case,  Orval  continued,  for  another  two  centuries, 

to  be  associated  with  the  name  of  Nostradamus. 

As  late  as  the 

French  Revolution  and  the  Napoleonic  era  books  of  prophecies,  purportedly  authored  by 

Nostradamus,  were  issuing  from  Orval. 

The  Bid  for  the  Throne  of  France 

By  the  mid-1 620s  the  throne  of  France  was  occupied  by  Louis  XIII.  But  the  power  behind 

the  throne,  and  the  real  architect  of  French  policy,  was  the  king's  prime  minister,  Cardinal 

Richelieu.  Richelieu  is  generally  acknowledged  to  have  been  the  arch-Machiavel,  the 

supreme  machinator,  of  his  age.  He  may  have  been  something  more  as  well. 

While  Richelieu  established  an  unprecedented  stability  in  France,  the 


166 


rest  of  Europe  and  especially  Germany  flamed  in  the  throes  of  the 

Thirty  Years  War.  In  its  origins  the  Thirty 

Years  War  was  not  essentially  religious.  Nevertheless,  it  quickly 

became  polarised  in  religious  terms.  On  one  side  were  the  staunchly 

Catholic  forces  of  Spain  and  Austria.  On  the  other  were  the  Protestant 

armies  of  Sweden  and  the  small  German  principalities  -including  the 

Palatinate  of  the  Rhine,  whose  rulers,  Elector  Frederick  and  his  wife 

Elizabeth  Stuart,  were  in  exile  at  the  Hague.  Frederick  and  his  allies 

in  the  field  were  endorsed  and  supported  by  "Rosicrucian'  thinkers  and 

writers  both  on  the  continent  and  in 

England. 

In  1633  Cardinal  Richelieu  embarked  on  an  audacious  and  seemingly 

incredible  policy.  He  brought  France  into  the  Thirty  Years  War  but  not 

on  the  side  one  would  expect.  For  Richelieu,  a  number  of 

considerations  took  precedence  over  his  religious  obligations  as 

cardinal.  He  sought  to  establish  French  supremacy  in  Europe.  He 

sought  to  neutralise  the  perpetual  and  traditional  threat  posed  to 

French  security  by  Austria  and  Spain.  And  he  sought  to  shatter  the 

Spanish  hegemony  which  had  obtained  for  more  than  a  century  especially 

in  the  old  Merovingian  heartland  of  the  Low 

Countries  and  parts  of  modern  Lorraine.  As  a  result  of  these 

factors, 

Europe  was  taken  aback  by  the  unprecedented  action  of  a  Catholic  cardinal,  presiding 

over  a  Catholic  country,  dispatching  Catholic  troops  to  fight  on  the  Protestant  side  against 

other  Catholics.  No  historian  has  ever  suggested  that  Richelieu  was  a  "Rosicrucian'.  But 

he  could  not  possibly  have  done  anything  more  in  keeping  with  "Rosicrucian'  attitudes,  or 

more  likely  to  win  him  "Rosicrucian'  favour. 

In  the  meantime  the  house  of  Lorraine  had  again  begun  to  aspire,  albeit 

obliquely,  to  the  French  throne.  This  time  the  claimant  was  Gaston 

d'Orleans,  younger  brother  of  Louis  XIII.  Gaston  was  not  himself  of 

the  house  of  Lorraine.  In  1632,  however,  he  had  married  the  duke  of 

Lorraine's  sister.  His  heir  would  thus  carry  Lorraine  blood  on  the 

maternal  side;  and  if  Gaston  ascended  the  throne  Lorraine  would  preside 

over  France  within  another  generation.  This  prospect  was  sufficient  to 

mobilise  support.  Among  those  asserting  Gaston's  right  of  succession 

we  found  an  individual  we  had  encountered  before  Charles,  Duke  of 

Guise.  Charles  had  been  tutored  by  the  young  Robert  Fludd.  And  he  had 


167 


married  HenrietteCatherine  de  joyeuse,  owner  of  Couiza  and  Arques 

-where  the  tomb  identical  to  the  one  in  Poussin's  painting  is  located. 

Attempts  to  depose  Louis  in  favour  of  Gaston  failed,  but  time  it  seemed  was  on  Gaston's 
side;  or  at  least  on  the  side  of  Gaston's  heirs,  for  Louis  XIII  and  his  wife,  Anne  of  Austria, 
remained  childless.  Rumours  were  already  in  circulation  that  the  king  was  homosexual  or 
sexually  incapacitated;  and  indeed,  according  to  certain  reports  following  his  subsequent 
autopsy,  he  was  pronounced  incapable  of  begetting  children. 
But  then,  in  1638,  after  twenty-three  years  of  sterile  marriage,  Anne 
of  Austria  suddenly  produced  a  child.  Few  people  at  the  time  believed 
in  the  boy's  legitimacy,  and  there  is  still  considerable  doubt  about 
it.  According  to  both  contemporary  and  later  writers,  the  child's  true 
father  was  Cardinal  Richelieu,  or  perhaps  a  "stud'  employed  by 
Richelieu,  quite  possibly  his  protege  and  successor, 
Cardinal  Mazarin.  It  has  even  been  claimed  that  after  Louis  XIN's 
death, 

Mazarin  and  Anne  of  Austria  were  secretly  married. 
In  any  case  the  birth  of  an  heir  to  Louis  XIII  was  a  serious  blow  to 
the  hopes  of  Gaston  d'Orleans  and  the  house  of  Lorraine.  And  when 
Louis  and 

Richelieu  both  died  in  1642,  the  first  in  a  series  of  concerted  attempts  was  launched  to 
oust  Mazarin  and  keep  the  young  Louis  XIV  from  the  throne. 

These  attempts,  which  began  as  popular  uprisings,  culminated  in  a  civil  war  that  flared 
intermittently  for  ten  years.  To  historians  that  war  is  known  as  the  Fronde.  In  addition  to 
Gaston  d'Orleans,  its  chief  instigators  included  a  number  of  names,  families  and  titles 
already  familiar  to  us. 

There  was  Frederic-Maurice  de  la  Tour  dAuvergne,  Duke  of  Bouillon. 
There  was  the  viscount  of  Turenne.  There  was  the  duke  of  Longueville 
-grandson  of 

Louis  de  Gonzaga,  Duke  of  Nevers  and  alleged  Grand  Master  of  Sion  half  a  century 
before.  The  headquarters  and  capital  of  the  frondeurs  was,  significantly  enough,  the 
ancient  Ardennes  town  of  Stenay. 
The  Compagnie  du  Saint-Sacrement 


168 


According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  during  the 

mid-seventeenth  century,  "dedicated  itself  to  deposing  Mazarin'. 

Quite  clearly  it  would  seem  to  have  been  unsuccessful.  The  Fronde 

failed, 

Louis  XIV  did  mount  the  throne  of  France  and  Mazarin,  though  briefly  removed,  was 

quickly  reinstated,  presiding  as  prime  minister  until  his  death  in  1660.  But  if  Sion  did  in 

fact  devote  itself  to  opposing  Mazarin,  we  at  last  had  some  vector  on  it,  some  means  of 

locating  and  identifying  it.  Given  the  families  involved  in  the  Fronde  families  whose 

genealogies  also  figured  in  the  "Prieure  documents'  it  seemed  reasonable  to  associate 

Sion  with  the  instigators  of  that  turmoil. 

The  "Prieure  documents'  had  asserted  that  Sion  actively  opposed  Mazarin. 

They  also  asserted  that  certain  families  and  titles  Lorraine,  for  example,  Gonzaga,  Nevers, 

Guise,  Longueville  and  Bouillon  had  not  only  been  intimately  connected  with  the  Order, 

but  also  provided  it  with  some  of  its  Grand  Masters.  And  history  confirmed  that  it  was 

these  names  and  titles  which  had  loomed  in  the  forefront  of  resistance  to  the  cardinal.  It 

thus  seemed  that  we  had  located  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  and  that  we  had  identified  at  least 

some  of  its  members.  If  we  were  right,  Sion  during  the  period  in  question,  at  any  rate  was 

simply  another  name  for  a  movement  and  a  conspiracy  which  historians  had  long 

recognised  and  acknowledged. 

But  if  the  f  rondeurs  constituted  an  enclave  of  opposition  to  Mazarin, 

they  were  not  the  only  such  enclave.  There  were  others  as  well, 

overlapping  enclaves  which  functioned  not  only  during  the  Fronde  but 

long  afterwards.  The 

"Prieure  documents'  themselves  refer  repeatedly  and  insistently  to  the 

Compagriie  du  Saint-Sacrement.  They  imply,  quite  clearly,  that  the 

Compagnie  was  in  fact 

Sion,  or  a  fapade  for  Sion,  operating  under  another  name. 

And  certainly  the  Compagnie  in  its  structure,  organisation,  activities  and  modes  of 

operation  conformed  to  the  picture  we  had  begun  to  form  of  Sion. 

The  Compagnie  du  Saint-Sacrement  was  a  highly  organised  and  efficient  secret  society. 

There  is  no  question  of  it  being  fictitious.  On  the  contrary,  its  existence  has  been 

acknowledged  by  its  contemporaries,  as  well  as  by  subsequent  historians.  It  has  been 

exhaustively  documented,  and  numerous  books  and  articles  have  been  devoted  to  it.  Its 

name  is  familiar  enough  in  France,  and  it  continues  to  enjoy  a  certain  fashionable 

mystique. 


169 


Some  of  its  own  papers  have  even  come  to  light. 

The  Compagnie  is  said  to  have  been  founded,  between  1627  and  1629,  by  a  nobleman 

associated  with  Gaston  d'Orleans.  The  individuals  who  guided  and  shaped  its  policies 

remained  scrupulously  anonymous,  however,  and  are  still  so  today.  The  only  names 

definitively  associated  with  it  are  those  of  intermediate  or  lower-ranking  members  of  its 

hierarchy  the  'front  men',,  so  to  speak,  who  acted  on  instructions  from  above.  One  of 

these  was  the  brother  of  the  duchess  of  Longueville.  Another  was  Charles  Fouquet, 

brother  of  Louis  XIV's  Superintendent  of  Finances. 

And  there  was  the  uncle  of  the  philosopher  Fenelon  who,  half  a  century 

later,  exerted  a  profound  influence  on  Freemasonry  through  the 

Chevalier  Ramsay.  Among  those  most  prominently  associated  with  the 

Compagnie  were  the  mysterious  figure  now  known  as  Saint 

Vincent  de  Paul,  and  Nicolas  Pavilion,  bishop  of  Alet,  the  town  a  few 

miles  from  Rennes-leChateau,  and  Jean  Jacques  Olier,  founder  of  the 

Seminary  of 

Saint  Sulpice.  Indeed  Saint  Sulpice  is  now  generally  acknowledged  to 

have  been  the  Compagnie's  'centre  of  operations'. 9 

In  its  organisation  and  activities  the  Compagnie  echoed  the  Order  of 

the 

Temple  and  prefigured  later  Freemasonry.  Working  from  Saint  Sulpice,  it  established  an 

intricate  network  of  provincial  branches  or  chapters.  Provincial  members  remained 

ignorant  of  their  directors'  identities.  They  were  often  manipulated  on  behalf  of  objectives 

they  themselves  did  not  share. 

They  were  even  forbidden  to  contact  each  other  except  via  Paris,  thus 

ensuring  a  highly  centralised  control.  And  even  in  Paris  the 

architects  of  the  society  remained  unknown  to  those  who  obediently 

served  them.  In  short  the  Compagnie  comprised  a  hydra-headed 

organisation  with  an  invisible  heart.  To  this  day  it  is  not  known  who 

constituted  the  heart.  Nor  what  constituted  the  heart.  But  it  is 

known  that  the  heart  beat  in  accordance  with  some  veiled  and  weighty 

secret.  Contemporary  accounts  refer  explicitly  to  'the  Secret  which  is 

the  core  of  the  Compagnie'.  According  to  one  of  the  society's 

statutes,  discovered  long  afterwards,  "The  primary  channel  which  shapes 

the  spirit  of  the  Compagnie,  and  which  is  essential  to  it,  is  the 

Secret.  " 

So  far  as  uninitiated  novice  members  were  concerned,  the  Compagnie  was 


170 


ostensibly  devoted  to  charitable  work,  especially  in  regions 

devastated  by  the  Wars  of  Religion  and  subsequently  by  the  Fronde  in  Picardy,  for 

instance,  Champagne  and  Lorraine.  It  is  now  generally  accepted,  however,  that  this 

"charitable  work'  was  merely  a  convenient  and  ingenious  facade,  which  had  little  to  do 

with  the  Compagnie's  real  raison  detre.  The  real  raison  detre  was  twofold  to  engage  in 

what  was  called  'pious  espionage',  gathering  'intelligence  information',  and  to  infiltrate  the 

most  important  offices  in  the  land,  including  circles  in  direct  proximity  to  the  throne. 

In  both  of  these  objectives  the  Compagnie  seems  to  have  enjoyed  a 

signal  success.  As  a  member  of  the  royal  "Council  of  Conscience',  for 

example, 

Vincent  de  Paul  became  confessor  to  Louis  XIII.  He  was  also  an  intimate  adviser  to  Louis 

XIV  until  his  opposition  to  Mazarin  forced  him  to  resign  this  position.  And  the  queen 

mother,  Anne  of  Austria,  was,  in  many  respects,  a  hapless  pawn  of  the  Compagnie,  who 

for  a  time  at  any  rate  managed  to  turn  her  against  Mazarin.  But  the  Compagnie  did  not 

confine  itself  exclusively  to  the  throne.  By  the  mid  seventeenth  century,  it  could  wield 

power  through  the  aristocracy,  the  parlement,  the  judiciary  and  the  police  -so  much  so, 

that  on  a  number  of  occasions  these  bodies  openly  dared  to  defy  the  king. 

In  our  researches  we  found  no  historian,  writing  either  at  the  time  or 

more  recently,  who  adequately  explained  the  Compagnie  du 

Saint-Sacrement.  Most  authorities  depict  it  as  a  militant 

arch-Catholic  organisation,  a  bastion  of  rigidly  entrenched  and  fanatic 

orthodoxy.  The  same  authorities  claim  that  it  devoted  itself  to 

weeding  out  heretics.  But  why,  in  a  devoutly 

Catholic  country,  should  such  an  organisation  have  had  to  function  with  such  strict 

secrecy?  And  who  constituted  a  "heretic'  at  that  time? 

-Protestants?   Jansenists?   In  fact,  there  were  numerous  Protestants  and 

Jansenists  within  the  ranks  of  the  Compagnie. 

If  the  Compagnie  was  piously  Catholic,  it  should,  in  theory,  have 

endorsed 

Cardinal  Mazarin  who,  after  all,  embodied  Catholic  interests  at  the  time. 

Yet  the  Compagnie  militantly  opposed  Mazarin  so  much  so  that  the 

cardinal,  losing  his  temper,  vowed  he  would  employ  all  his  resources  to 

destroy  it.  What  is  more,  the  Compagnie  provoked  vigorous  hostility  in 


171 


other  conventional  quarters  as  well.  The  Jesuits,  for  instance, 

assiduously  campaigned  against  it.  Other 

Catholic  authorities  accused  the  Compagnie  of  'heresy'  the  very  thing 

the 

Compagnie  itself  purported  to  oppose.  In  1 651  the  bishop  of  Toulouse  charged  the 

Compagnie  with  'impious  practices'  and  hinted  at  something  highly  irregular  in  its 

induction  ceremonies"  -  a  curious  echo  of  the  charges  levelled  against  the  Templars.  He 

even  threatened  members  of  the  society  with  excommunication.  Most  of  them  brazenly 

defied  this  threat  an  extremely  singular  response  from  supposedly  'pious'  Catholics. 

The  Compagnie  had  been  formed  when  the  "Rosicrucian'furore  was  still  at  its  zenith.  The 

'invisible  confraternity'  was  believed  to  be  everywhere,  omnipresent  and  this  engendered 

not  only  panic  and  paranoia,  but  also  the  inevitable  witch-hunts.  And  yet  no  trace  was 

ever  found  of  a  card-carrying  "Rosicrucian'  nowhere,  least  of  all  in  Catholic  France.  So  far 

as  France  was  concerned,  the  "Rosicrucians'  remained  figments  of  an  alarmist  popular 

imagination.  Or  did  they?  If  there  were  indeed  "Rosicrucian'  interests  determined  to 

establish  a  foothold  in  France,  what  better  facade  could  there  be  than  an  organisation 

dedicated  to  hunting  out  "Rosicrucians'?  In  short  the  "Rosicrucians'  may  have  furthered 

their  objectives,  and  gained  a  following  in  France,  by  posing  as  their  own  arch-enemy. 

The  Compagnie  successfully  defied  both  Mazarin  and  Louis  XIV.  In  1660, 

less  than  a  year  before  Mazarin's  death,  the  king  officially  pronounced 

against  the  Compagnie  and  ordered  its  dissolution.  For  the  next  five 

years  the 

Compagnie  cavalierly  ignored  the  royal  edict.  At  last,  in  1665,  it  concluded  that  it  could 

not  continue  to  operate  in  its  'present  form'. 

Accordingly  all  documents  pertinent  to  the  society  were  recalled  and  concealed  in  some 

secret  Paris  depository.  This  depository  has  never  been  located,  although  it  is  generally 

believed  to  have  been  Saint  Sulpice."2  If  it  was,  the  Compagnie's  archives  would  thus 

have  been  available,  more  than  two  centuries  later,  to  men  like  Abbe  smile  Hof  fet. 

But  though  the  Compagnie  ceased  to  exist  in  what  was  then  its  'present  form',  none  the 

less  it  continued  to  operate  at  least  until  the  beginning  of  the  next  century,  still  constituting 

a  thorn  in  Louis  XIV's  side. 


172 


According  to  unconfirmed  traditions,  it  survived  well  into  the 

twentieth  century. 

Whether  this  last  assertion  is  true  or  not,  there  is  no  question  that 

the 

Compagnie  survived  its  supposed  demise  in  1665.  In  1667  Moliere,  a 

loyal  adherent  of  Louis  XIV,  attacked  the  Compagnie  through  certain 

veiled  but  pointed  allusions  in  Le  Tartuffe.  Despite  its  apparent 

extinction,  the 

Compagnie  retaliated  by  getting  the  play  suppressed  and  keeping  it  so 

for  two  years,  despite  Moliere's  royal  patronage.  And  the  Compagnie 

seems  to  have  employed  its  own  literary  spokesmen  as  well.  It  is 

rumoured,  for  example,  to  have  included  La  Rochefoucauld  who  was 

certainly  active  in  the  Fronde.  According  to  Gerard  de  Sede,  La 

Fontaine  was  also  a  member  of  the  Compagnie,  and  his  charming, 

ostensibly  innocuous  fables  were  in  fact  allegorical  attacks  on  the 

throne.  This  is  not  inconceivable.  Louis  XIV  disliked  La  Fontaine 

intensely,  and  actively  opposed  his  admission  to  the 

Academie  Fran~aisc.  And  La  Fontaine's  sponsors  and  patrons  included  the  duke  of 

Guise,  the  duke  of  Bouillon,  the  viscount  of  Turenne  and  the  widow  of  Gaston  d'Orleans. 

In  the  Compagnie  du  Saint-Sacrement  we  thus  found  an  actual  secret  society,  much  of 

whose  history  was  on  record.  It  was  ostensibly  Catholic,  but  was  nevertheless  linked  with 

distinctly  un-Catholic  activities.  It  was  intimately  associated  with  certain  important 

aristocratic  families  families  who  had  been  active  in  the  Fronde  and  whose  genealogies 

figured  in  the  "Prieure  documents'.  It  was  closely  connected  with  Saint  Sulpice.  It  worked 

primarily  by  infiltration  and  came  to  exercise  enormous  influence. 

And  it  was  actively  opposed  to  Cardinal  Mazarin.  In  all  these  respects,  it  conformed 

almost  perfectly  to  the  image  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  as  presented  in  the  "Prieure 

documents'.  If  Sion  was  indeed  active  during  the  seventeenth  century,  we  could 

reasonably  assume  it  to  have  been  synonymous  with  the  Compagnie.  Or  perhaps  with 

the  power  behind  the  Compagnie. 

Chateau  Barberie 


173 


According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  Sion's  opposition  to  Mazarin 

provoked  bitter  retribution  from  the  cardinal.  Among  the  chief  victims 

of  this  retribution  are  said  to  have  been  the  Plantard  family  lineal 

descendants  of  Dagobert  II  and  the  Merovingian  dynasty.  In  1548,  the 

"Prieure  documents'  state,  jean  des  Plantard  had  married  Marie  de 

Saint-Clair  thus  forging  another  link  between  his  family  and  that  of 

the 

Saint-Clair/Gisors.  By  that  time,  too,  the  Plantard  family  was 

supposedly  established  at  a  certain  Chateau  Barberie  near  Nevers,  in 

the  Nivernais  region  of  France.  This  chateau  supposedly  constituted 

the  Plantards'  official  residence  for  the  next  century.  Then,  on  July 

11th,  1659,  according  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  Mazarin  ordered  the 

razing  and  total  destruction  of  the  chateau.  In  the  ensuing 

conflagration,  the  Plantard  family  is  said  to  have  lost  all  its 

possessions.  '3 

No  established  or  conventional  history  book,  no  biography  of  Mazarin,  confirmed  these 

assertions.  Our  researches  yielded  no  mention  whatever  of  a  Plantard  family  in  the 

Nivernais,  or,  at  first,  of  any  Chateau  Barberie. 

And  yet  Mazarin,  for  some  unspecified  reason,  did  covet  the  Nivernais 

and  the  duchy  of  Nevers.  Eventually  he  managed  to  purchase  them  and 

the  contract  is  signed  July  1 1 th ,  1 659, "4  the  very  day  on  which 

Chateau 

Barberie  is  said  to  have  been  destroyed. 

This  prompted  us  to  investigate  the  matter  further.  Eventually  we 

exhumed  a  few  disparate  fragments  of  evidence.  They  were  not  enough  to 

explain  things,  but  they  did  attest  to  the  veracity  of  the  "Prieure 

documents'.  In  a  compilation,  dated  1506,  of  estates  and  holdings  in 

the  Nivernais  a 

Barberie  was  indeed  mentioned.  A  charter  of  1575  mentioned  a  hamlet  in 

the 

Nivernais  called  Les  Plantards. "5 

Most  convincing  of  all,  it  transpired  that  the  existence  of  Chateau 

Ba~berie  had  in  fact  been  definitively  established.  During  1874-5 

members  of  the  Society  of  Letters,  Sciences  and  Arts  of  Nevers 

undertook  an  exploratory  excavation  on  the  site  of  certain  ruins.  It 

was  a  difficult  enterprise,  for  the  ruins  were  almost  unrecognisable  as 

such,  the  stones  had  been  vitrified  by  fire  and  the  site  itself  was 

thickly  overgrown  with  trees.  Eventually,  however,  remnants  of  a  town 

wall  and  of  a  chateau  were  uncovered.  This  site  is  now  acknowledged  to 


174 


have  been  Barberie.  Before  its  destruction  it  apparently  consisted  of 

a  small  fortified  town  and  chateau.  '6  And  it  is  within  a  short  distance  of  the  old  hamlet  of 

Les  Plantards. 

We  could  now  say  that  Chateau  Barberie  indisputably  existed  and  was  destroyed  by  fire. 

And,  given  the  hamlet  of  Les  Plantards,  there  was  no  reason  to  doubt  it  had  been  owned 

by  a  family  of  that  name.  The  curious  fact  was  that  there  was  no  record  of  when  the 

chateau  had  been  destroyed,  nor  by  whom.  If  Mazarin  was  responsible,  he  would  seem 

to  have  taken  extraordinary  pains  to  eradicate  all  traces  of  his  action. 

Indeed  there  seemed  to  have  been  a  methodical  and  systematic  attempt  to 

wipe  Chateau 

Barberie  from  the  map  and  from  history.  Why  embark  on  such  a  process  of  obliteration, 

unless  there  was  something  to  hide? 

Nicolas  Fouquet 

Mazarin  had  other  enemies  besides  the  frondeurs  and  the  Compagnie  du 

Saint-Sacrement.  Among  the  most  powerful  of  them  was  Nicolas  Fouquet,  who  in  1653, 

had  become  Superintendent  of  Finances  to  Louis  XIV.  A  gifted,  precocious  and  ambitious 

man,  Fouquet,  within  the  next  few  years,  had  become  the  wealthiest  and  most  powerful 

individual  in  the  kingdom.  He  was  sometimes  called  "the  true  king  of  France'.  And  he 

was  not  without  political  aspirations.  It  was  rumoured  that  he  intended  to  make  Brittany  an 

independent  duchy  and  himself  its  presiding  duke. 

Fouquet's  mother  was  a  prominent  member  of  the  Compagnie  du 

Saint-Sacrement.  So  was  his  brother  Charles,  Archbishop  of  Narbonne  in 

the 

Languedoc.  His  younger  brother,  Louis,  was  also  an  ecclesiastic.  In 

1656 

Nicolas  Fouquet  dispatched  Louis  to  Rome,  for  reasons  which  -though  not 

necessarily  mysterious  have  never  been  explained.  From  Rome,  Louis 

wrote  the  enigmatic  letter  quoted  in  Chapter  1  the  letter  that  speaks 

of  a  meeting  with  Poussin  and  a  secret  "which  even  kings  would  have 

great  pains  to  draw  from  him'.  And  indeed,  if  Louis  was  indiscreet  in 

correspondence, 

Poussin  gave  nothing  whatever  away.  His  personal  seal  bore  the  motto 

"Tenet 

Confidentiam'. 


175 


In  1661  Louis  XIV  ordered  the  arrest  of  Nicolas  Fouquet.  The  charges 

were  extremely  general  and  nebulous.  There  were  vague  accusations  of  misappropriation 

of  funds,  and  others,  even  more  vague,  of  sedition.  On  the  basis  of  these  accusations,  all 

Fouquet's  goods  and  properties  were  placed  under  royal  sequestration.  But  the  king 

forbade  his  officers  to  touch  the  Superintendent's  papers  or  correspondence.  He  insisted 

on  sifting  through  these  documents  himself  personally  and  in  private. 

The  ensuing  trial  dragged  on  for  four  years  and  became  the  sensation 

of 

France  at  the  time,  violently  splitting  and  pol  arising  public  opinion. 

Louis  Fouquet  who  had  met  with  Poussin  and  written  the  letter  from  Rome  was  dead  by 

then.  But  the  Superintendent's  mother  and  surviving  brother  mobilised  the  Compagnie  de 

Saint-Sacrement,  whose  membership  also  included  one  of  the  presiding  judges.  The 

Compagnie  threw  the  whole  of  its  support  behind  the  Superintendent,  working  actively 

through  the  courts  and  the  popular  mind.  Louis  XIV  who  was  not  usually  bloodthirsty 

demanded  nothing  less  than  the  death  sentence.  Refusing  to  be  intimidated  by  him,  the 

court  passed  a  sentence  of  perpetual  banishment.  Still  demanding  death,  the  enraged 

king  removed  the  recalcitrant  judges  and  replaced  them  with  others  more  obedient;  but 

the  Compagnie  still  seems  to  have  defied  him. 

Eventually,  in  1665,  Fouquet  was  sentenced  to  perpetual  imprisonment.  On  the  king's 

orders  he  was  kept  in  rigorous  isolation.  He  was  forbidden  all  writing  implements,  all 

means  whereby  he  might  communicate  with  anyone.  And  any  soldiers  who  conversed 

with  him  were  allegedly  consigned  to  prison  ships  or,  in  some  cases,  hanged." 

In  1665,  the  year  of  Fouquet's  imprisonment,  Poussin  died  in  Rome.  During  the  years  that 

followed,  Louis  XIV  persistently  endeavoured  through  his  agents  to  obtain  a  single 

painting  "Les  Bergers  d'Arcadie'.  In  1685  he  finally  managed  to  do  so.  But  the  painting 

was  not  placed  on  display  not  even  in  the  royal  residence.  On  the  contrary,  it  was 

sequestered  in  the  king's  private  apartments,  where  no  one  could  view  it  without  the 

monarch's  personal  authority. 

There  is  a  footnote  to  Fouquet's  story,  for  his  own  disgrace,  whatever 


176 


its  causes  and  magnitude,  was  not  visited  on  his  children.  By  the 

middle  of  the  following  century  Fouquet's  grandson,  the  marquis  of 

Belle-Isle,  had  become,  in  effect,  the  single  most  important  man  in 

France.  In  1718  the  marquis  of  Belle-Isle  ceded  Belle-Isle  itself  a 

fortified  island  off  the  Breton  coast  to  the  crown.  In  return  he 

obtained  certain  interesting  territories.  One  was  Longueville,  whose 

former  dukes  and  duchesses  had  figured  recurrently  in  our 

investigation.  And  another  was  Gisors.  In  1718  the  marquis  of 

Belle-Isle  became  count  of 

Gisors.  In  1742  he  became  duke  of  Gisors.  And  in  1748  Gisors  was  raised  to  the  exalted 

status  of  premier  duchy. 

Nicolas  Poussin 

Poussin  himself  was  born  in  1 594  in  a  small  town  called  Les  Andelys  -  a  few  miles,  we 

discovered,  from  Gisors.  As  a  young  man  he  left  France  and  established  residence  in 

Rome,  where  he  spent  the  duration  of  his  life,  returning  only  once  to  his  native  country. 

He  returned  to  France  in  the  early  1640s  at  the  request  of  Cardinal  Richelieu,  who  had 

invited  him  to  undertake  a  specific  commission. 

Although  he  was  not  actively  involved  in  politics,  and  few  historians  have  touched  on  his 

political  interests,  Poussin  was  in  fact  closely  associated  with  the  Fronde.  He  did  not 

leave  his  refuge  in  Rome.  But  his  correspondence  of  the  period  reveals  him  to  have  been 

deeply  committed  to  the  anti-Mazarin  movement,  and  on  surprisingly  familiar  terms  with  a 

number  of  influential  frondeurs  so  much  so,  indeed,  that,  in  speaking  of  them,  he 

repeatedly  uses  the  word  "we',  thus  clearly  implicating  himself." 

We  had  already  traced  the  motifs  of  the  underground  stream  Alpheus, 

of 

Arcadia  and  Arcadian  shepherds,  to  Rene  d'Anjou.  We  now  undertook  to 

find  an  antecedent  for  the  specific  phrase  in  Poussin's  painting  "Et 

in 

Arcadia  Ego'.  It  appeared  in  an  earlier  painting  by  Poussin,  in  which 

the  tomb  is  surmounted  by  a  skull  and  does  not  constitute  an  edifice  of 

its  own,  but  is  embedded  in  the  side  of  a  cliff.  In  the  foreground  of 

this  painting  a  bearded  water-deity  reposes  in  an  attitude  of  brooding 

moroseness  the  river  god  Alpheus,  lord  of  the  underground  stream.  The 


177 


work  dates  from  1630  or  1635,  five  or  ten  years  Fig.  1  The  Plantard 

Family  Crest 

"A_ 

— n'-aK~ca  t/ 

~(_l  ~  I  I  ;  r 

~  lll-l — II 

l~l~.  lipl 
I  I  ~_l 

/'~/~  I  I  I,  (~-~y  ,  I  I  I  ~  I  lii~~r .  I  Mi  I 

I  |~~  |  ~<~  ~|y\'%l'i_ 

l.j.M 
i     1  ai 


178 


~1  d  o~  aaWc  earlier  than  the  more  familiar  version  of  "Les  Bergers 

d'Arcadie'. 

The  phrase  "Et  in  Arcadia  Ego'  made  its  public  debut  between  1618  and  1623  in  a 

painting  by  Giovanni  Francesco  Guercino  -  a  painting  which  constitutes  the  real  basis  for 

Poussin's  work.  In  Guercino's  painting  two  shepherds,  entering  a  clearing  in  a  forest, 

have  just  happened  upon  a  stone  sepulchre. 

It  bears  the  now  famous  inscription,  and  there  is  a  large  skull  resting 

on  top  of  it.  Whatever  the  symbolic  significance  of  this  work, 

Guercino  himself  raised  a  number  of  questions.  Not  only  was  he  well 

versed  in  esoteric  tradition.  He  also  seems  to  have  been  conversant 

with  the  lore  of  secret  societies,  and  some  of  his  other  paintings  deal 

with  themes  of  a  specifically  Masonic  character  a  good  twenty  years 

before  lodges  started  proliferating  in  England  and  Scotland.  One 

painting,  "The  Raising  of  the 

Master',  pertains  explicitly  to  the  Masonic  legend  of  Hiram  Abiff, 

architect  and  builder  of  Solomon's  temple.  It  was  executed  nearly  a 

century  before  the  Hiram  legend  is  generally  believed  to  have  found  its 

way  into 

Masonry." 

In  the  "Prieure  documents',  "Et  in  Arcadia  Ego'  is  said  to  have  been 

the  official  device  of  the  Plantard  family  since  at  least  the  twelfth 

century,  when  jean  de  Plantard  married  Idoine  de  Gisors.  According  to 

one  source  quoted  in  the  "Prieure  documents'"  it  is  cited  as  such  as 

early  as  1210  by  one  Robert,  Abbot  of  Mont-Saint-Michel. z  We  were 

unable  to  obtain  access  to  the  archives  of  Mont  Saint-Michel,  and  so 

could  not  verify  this  assertion.  Our  research  convinced  us,  however, 

that  the  date  of  1 21 0  was  demonstrably  wrong.  In  point  of  fact,  there 

was  no  abbot  of 

Mont-Saint-Michel  named  Robert  in  1210.  On  the  other  hand,  one  Robert 

de 

Torigny  was  indeed  abbot  of  Mont  Saint-Michel  between  1 154  and  1 186. 

And 

Robert  de  Torigny  is  known  to  have  been  a  prolific  and  assiduous 

historian  whose  hobbies  included  collecting  mottoes,  devices,  blazons 

and  coats-of-arms  of  noble  families  throughout  Christendom  .2' 

Whatever  the  origin  of  the  phrase,  "Et  in  Arcadia  Ego'  seems,  for 

both 

Guercino  and  Poussin,  to  have  more  than  a  line  of  elegiac  poetry. 

Quite  clearly  it  seems  to  have  enjoyed  some  important  secret 


179 


significance,  which  was  recognisable  or  identifiable  to  certain  other 

people  the  equivalent,  in  short,  of  a  Masonic  sign  or  password.  And  it  is  precisely  in  such 

terms  that  one  statement  in  the  "Prieure  documents'  defines  the  character  of  symbolic  or 

allegorical  art: 

Allegorical  works  have  this  advantage,  that  a  single  word  suffices  to  illumine  connections 

which  the  multitude  cannot  grasp.  Such  works  are  available  to  everyone,  but  their 

significance  addresses  itself  to  an  elite. 

Above  and  beyond  the  masses,  sender  and  receiver  understand  each  other.  The 

inexplicable  success  of  certain  works  derives  from  this  quality  of  allegory,  which 

constitutes  not  a  mere  fashion,  but  a  form  of  esoteric  communication." 

In  its  context,  this  statement  was  made  with  reference  to  Poussin. 

As 

Frances  Yates  has  demonstrated,  however,  it  might  equally  well  be  applied  to  the  works  of 

Leonardo,  Botticelli  and  other  Renaissance  artists.  It  might  also  be  applied  to  later  figures 

to  Nodier,  Hugo,  Debussy,  Cocteau  and  their  respective  circles. 

Rosslyn  Chapel  and  Shugborough  Hall 

In  our  previous  research  we  had  found  a  number  of  important  links 

between 

Sion's  alleged  Grand  Masters  of  the  seventeenth  and  eighteenth 

centuries  and 

European  Freemasonry.  In  the  course  of  our  study  of  Freemasonry  we  discovered  certain 

other  links  as  well.  These  additional  links  did  not  relate  to  the  alleged  Grand  Masters  as 

such,  but  they  did  relate  to  other  aspects  of  our  investigation. 

Thus,  for  example,  we  encountered  repeated  references  to  the  Sinclair 

family  Scottish  branch  of  the  Norman  Saint-Clair/Gisors  family.  Their 

domain  at  Rosslyn  was  only  a  few  miles  from  the  former  Scottish 

headquarters  of  the  Knights  Templar,  and  the  chapel  at  Rosslyn  built 

between  1446  and  1486  has  long  been  associated  with  both  Freemasonry 

and  the  Rose-Croix.  In  a  charter  believed  to  date  from  1 601 ,  moreover, 

the 

Sinclairs  are  recognised  as  "hereditary  Grand  Masters  of  Scottish 

Masonry'z3  This  is  the  earliest  specifically  Masonic  document  on 

record.  According  to  Masonic 


180 


sources,  however,  the  hereditary  Grand  Mastership  was  conferred  on 

the 

Sinclairs  by  James  II,  who  ruled  between  1437  and  1460  the  age  of  Rene  d'Anjou. 

Another  and  rather  more  mysterious  piece  of  our  jigsaw  puzzle  also 

surfaced  in  Britain  this  time  in  Staffordshire,  which  had  been  a  hotbed 

for 

Masonic  activity  in  the  early  and  mid-seventeenth  century.  When 

Charles 

Radclyffe,  alleged  Grand  Master  of  Sion,  escaped  from  Newgate  Prison  in  1714,  he  was 

aided  by  his  cousin,  the  earl  of  Lichfield.  Later  in  the  century  the  earl  of  Lichfield's  line 

became  extinct  and  his  title  lapsed. 

It  was  bought  in  the  early  nineteenth  century  by  descendants  of  the  Anson  family,  who  are 

the  present  earls  of  Lichfield. 

The  seat  of  the  present  earls  of  Lichfield  is  Shugborough  Hall  in 

Staffordshire.  Formerly  a  bishop's  residence,  Shugborough  was 

purchased  by  the  Anson  family  in  1697.  During  the  following  century  it 

was  the  residence  of  the  brother  of  George  Anson,  the  famous  admiral 

who  circumnavigated  the  globe.  When  George  Anson  died  in  1762,  an 

elegiac  poem  was  read  aloud  in 

Parliament.  One  stanza  of  this  poem  reads: 

Upon  that  storied  marble  cast  thine  eye. 

The  scene  commands  a  moralising  sigh. 

E'en  in  Arcadia's  bless'd  Elysian  plains, 

Amidst  the  laughing  nymphs  and  sportive  swains, 

See  festal  joy  subside,  with  melting  grace, 

And  pity  visit  the  half-smiling  face; 

Where  now  the  dance,  the  lute,  the  nuptial  feast, 

The  passion  throbbing  in  the  lover's  breast, 

Life's  emblem  here,  in  youth  and  vernal  bloom, 

But  reason's  finger  pointing  at  the  tomb  !24 

This  would  seem  to  be  an  explicit  allusion  to  Poussin's  painting  and  the  inscription  "Et  in 

Arcadia  Ego'  right  down  to  the  "finger  pointing  at  the  tomb'.  And  in  the  grounds  of 

Shugborough  there  is  an  imposing  marble  has  relief  executed  at  the  command  of  the 

Anson  family  between  1761  and  1767. 

This  has-relief  comprises  a  reproduction  reversed,  mirror-fashion  of 

Poussin's  "Les  Bergers  d'Arcadie'.  And  immediately  below  it,  there  is 


181 


an  enigmatic  inscription,  which  no  one  has  ever  satisfactorily 

deciphered: 

O.U.03N.ANN. 

D  M 

The  Pope's  Secret  Letter 

In  1738  Pope  Clement  XII  issued  a  Papal  Bull  condemning  and 

excommunicating  all  Freemasons,  whom  he  pronounced  'enemies  of  the 

Roman  Church'.  It  has  never  been  altogether  clear  why  they  should  have 

been  regarded  as  such  especially  as  many  of  them,  like  the  Jacobites  at 

Catholic.  Perhaps  the  pope  was  aware  of  the  connection  we  had  discovered  between 

early  Freemasonry  and  the  anti-Roman  "Rosicrucians'  of  the  seventeenth  century.  In  any 

case  some  light  may  be  shed  on  the  matter  by  a  letter  released  and  published  for  the  first 

time  in  1962.  This  letter  had  been  written  by  Pope  Clement  XII  and  addressed  to  an 

unknown  correspondent. 

In  its  text  the  pope  declares  that  Masonic  thought  rests  on  a  heresy  we 

had  encountered  repeatedly  before  the  denial  of  Jesus's  divinity.  And 

he  further  asserts  that  the  guiding  spirits,  the  'masterminds', 

behind 

Freemasonry  are  the  same  as  those  who  provoked  the  Lutheran  Reformation." 

The  pope  may  well  have  been  paranoid;  but  it  is  important  to  note  that  he  is  not  speaking 

of  nebulous  currents  of  thought  or  vague  traditions.  On  the  contrary,  he  is  speaking  of  a 

highly  organised  group  of  individuals  -a  sect,  an  order,  a  secret  society  who,  through  the 

ages,  have  dedicated  themselves  to  subverting  the  edifice  of  Catholic  Christianity. 

The  Rock  of  Sion 

In  the  late  eighteenth  century,  when  different  Masonic  systems  were 

proliferating  wildly,  the  so-called  Oriental  Rite  of  Memphiszs  made  its 

appearance.  In  this  rite  the  name  Ormus  occurred,  to  our  knowledge, 

for  the  first  time  the  name  allegedly  adopted  by  the  Prieure  Sion 

between  1 188  and  1307.  According  to  the  Oriental  Rite  of  Mem  phis, 


182 


Ormus  was  an  Egyptian  sage  who,  around  A.D.  46,  amalgamated  pagan  and 

Christian  mysteries  and,  in  so  doing,  founded  the 

Rose-Croix. 

In  other  eighteenth  century  Masonic  rites  there  are  repeated  references 

to  the  "Rock  of  Sion'  the  same  Rock  of  Sion  which,  as  the  "Prieure 

documents'  quote,  rendered  the  'royal  tradition'  established  by  Godfroi 

and 

Baudouin  de  Bouillon  "equal'  to  that  of  any  other  reigning  dynasty  in 

Europe.  We  had  previously  assumed  that  the  Rock  of  Sion  was  simply 

Mount 

Sion  the  "high  hill'  south  of  Jerusalem  on  which  Godfroi  built  an  abbey  to  house  the  order 

which  became  the  Prieure  de  Sion.  But  Masonic  sources  ascribe  an  additional 

significance  to  the  Rock  of  Sion.  Given  their  preoccupation  with  the  Temple  of  Jerusalem, 

it  is  not  surprising  that  they  refer  one  to  specific  passages  in  the  Bible.  And  in  these 

passages  the  Rock  of  Sion  is  something  more  than  a  high  hill.  It  is  a  particular  stone 

overlooked  or  unjustifiably  neglected  during  the  building  of  the  Temple,  which  must 

subsequently  be  retrieved  and  incorporated  as  the  structure's  keystone.  According  to 

Psalm  118,  for  example: 

The  stone  which  the  builders  refused  is  become  the  head  stone  of  the  corner. 

In  Matthew  21 :42  Jesus  alludes  specifically  to  this  psalm: 

Did  ye  never  read  in  the  scriptures,  The  stone  which  the  builders  rejected,  the  same  is 

become  the  head  of  the  corner. 

In  Romans  9:33  there  is  another  reference,  rather  more  ambiguous: 

Behold,  I  lay  in  Sion  a  stumbling  stone  and  rock  of  offence:  and  whosoever  believeth  on 

him  shall  not  be  ashamed. 

In  Acts  4:1 1  the  Rock  of  Sion  might  well  be  interpreted  as  a  metaphor 

for 

Jesus  himself: 

by  the  name  of  Jesus  Christ  of  Nazareth  ..  .  doth  this  man  stand  here  before  you  whole. 

This  is  the  stone  which  was  set  at  nought  of  you  builders,  which  is  become  the  head  of  the 

corner. 

In  Ephesians  2:20  the  equation  of  Jesus  with  the  Rock  of  Sion  becomes 


183 


more  apparent:  built  upon  the  foundation  of  the  apostles  and  prophets, 

Jesus  Christ  himself  being  the  chief  corner  stone. 

And  in  1  Peter  2:3-8  this  equation  is  made  even  more  explicit: 

the  Lord  is  gracious.  To  whom  coming,  as  unto  a  living  stone,  disallowed  indeed  of  men, 

but  chosen  of  God,  and  precious.  Ye  also,  as  lively  stones,  are  built  up  a  spiritual  house, 

an  holy  priesthood,  to  offer  up  spiritual  sacrifices,  acceptable  to  God  by  Jesus  Christ. 

Wherefore  it  is  also  contained  in  the  scripture,  Behold,  I  lay  in  Sion  a  chief  corner  stone, 

elect,  precious:  and  he  that  believeth  on  him  shall  not  be  confounded.  Unto  you  therefore 

which  believe  he  is  precious:  but  unto  them  which  be  disobedient,  the  stone  which  the 

builders  disallowed,  the  same  is  made  the  head  of  the  corner,  And  a  stone  of  stumbling, 

and  a  rock  of  offence,  even  to  them  which  stumble  at  the  word,  being  disobedient; 

whereunto  also  they  were  appointed. 

In  the  very  next  verse,  the  text  goes  on  to  stress  themes  whose  significance  did  not 

become  apparent  to  us  until  later.  It  speaks  of  an  elect  line  of  kings  who  are  both  spiritual 

and  secular  leaders,  a  line  of  priest-kings: 

But  you  are  a  chosen  generation,  a  royal  priesthood,  an  holy  nation,  a  peculiar  people  ..  . 

What  were  we  to  make  of  these  baffling  passages?  What  were  we  to  make 

of  the  Rock  of  Sion  the  keystone  of  the  Temple,  which  seemed  to  figure 

so  saliently  among  the  "inner  secrets'  of  Freemasonry?  What  were  we  to 

make  of  the  explicit  identification  of  this  keystone  with  Jesus 

himself?  And  what  were  we  to  make  of  that  "royal  tradition'  which 

because  founded  on  the 

Rock  of  Sion  or  on  Jesus  himself  was  "equal'  to  the  reigning  dynasties 

of 

Europe  during  the  Crusades?=' 

The  Catholic  Modernist  Movement 

In  1833  Jean  Baptiste  Pitois,  Charles  Nodier's  former  disciple  at  the 

Arsenal  Library,  was  an  official  in  the  Ministry  of  Public  Education. zd 


184 


And  in  that  year  the  Ministry  undertook  an  ambitious  project  to 

publish  all  hitherto  suppressed  documents  pertinent  to  the  history  of  France.  Two 

committees  were  formed  to  preside  over  the  enterprise. 

These  committees  included,  among  others,  Victor 

Hugo,  Jules  Michelet  and  an  authority  on  the  Crusades,  Baron  Emmanuel  Rey. 

Among  the  works  subsequently  published  under  the  auspices  of  the  Ministry  of  Public 

Education  was  Michelet's  monumental  Le  Proces  des  Templiers  an  exhaustive 

compilation  of  Inquisition  records  dealing  with  the  trials  of  the  Knights  Templar.  Under  the 

same  auspices  Baron  Rey  published  a  number  of  works  dealing  with  the  Crusades  and 

the  Frankish  kingdom  of  Jerusalem. 

In  these  works  there  appeared  in  print  for  the  first  time  original  charters  pertaining  to  the 

Prieure  de  Sion.  At  certain  points  the  texts  Rey  quotes  are  almost  verbatim  with  passages 

in  the  "Prieure  documents'. 

In  1875  Baron  Rey  co-founded  the  Societe  de  1  "Orient  Latin  ("Society  of 

the 

Latin  or  Frankish  Middle  East').  Based  in  Geneva,  this  society  devoted 

itself  to  ambitious  archaeological  projects.  It  also  published  its  own 

magazine,  the  Revue  de  FOrient  Latin,  which  is  now  one  of  the  primary 

sources  for  modern  historians  like  Sir  Steven  Runciman,  The  Revue  de 

FOrient  Latin  reproduced  a  number  of  additional  charters  of  the  Prieure 

de 

Sion. 

Rey's  research  was  typical  of  a  new  form  of  historical  scholarship 

appearing  in  Europe  at  the  time,  most  prominently  in'  Germany,  which 

constituted  an  extremely  serious  threat  to  the  Church.  The 

dissemination  of 

Darwinian  thought  and  agnosticism  had  already  produced  a  "crisis  of 

faith'  in  the  late  nineteenth  century,  and  the  new  scholarship 

magnified  the  crisis.  In  the  past,  historical  research  had  been,  for 

the  most  part,  an  unreliable  affair,  resting  on  highly  tenuous 

foundations  -on  legend  and  tradition,  on  personal  memoirs,  on 

exaggerations  promulgated  for  the  sake  of  one  or  another  cause.  Only 

in  the  nineteenth  century  did  German  scholars  begin  introducing  the 

rigorous,  meticulous  techniques  that  are  now  accepted  as  commonplace, 

the  stockin-trade  of  any  responsible  historian.  Such  preoccupation 

with  critical  examination,  with  investigation  of  first-hand  sources, 

with  cross-references  and  exact  chronology,  established  the 


185 


conventional  stereotype  of  the  Teutonic  pedant.  But  if  German  writers 
of  the  period  tended  to  lose  themselves  in  minutiae,  they  also  provided  a  solid  basis  for 
inquiry.  And  for  a  number  of  major  archaeological  discoveries  as  well.  The  most  famous 
example,  of  course,  is  Heinrich  Schliemann's  excavation  of  the  site  of  Troy. 
It  was  only  a  matter  of  time  before  the  techniques  of  German  scholarship  were  applied, 
with  similar  diligence,  to  the  Bible.  And  the  Church,  which  rested  on  unquestioning 
acceptance  of  dogma,  was  well  aware  that  the  Bible  itself  could  not  withstand  such  critical 
scrutiny.  In  his  best-selling  and  highly  controversial  Life  of  Jesus,  Ernest  Renan  had 
already  applied  German  methodology  to  the  New  Testament,  and  the  results,  for  Rome, 
were  extremely  embarrassing. 

The  Catholic  Modernist  Movement  arose  initially  as  a  response  to  this  new  challenge.  Its 
original  objective  was  to  produce  a  generation  of  ecclesiastical  experts  trained  in  the 
German  tradition,  who  could  defend  the  literal  truth  of  Scripture  with  all  the  heavy 
ordnance  of  critical  scholarship.  As  it  transpired,  however,  the  plan  backfired. 
The  more  the 

Church  sought  to  equip  its  younger  clerics  with  the  tools  for  combat  in  the  modern 
polemical  world,  the  more  those  same  clerics  began  to  desert  the  cause  for  which  they 
had  been  recruited.  Critical  examination  of  the  Bible  revealed  a  multitude  of 
inconsistencies,  discrepancies  and  implications  that  were  positively  inimical  to  Roman 
dogma.  And  by  the  end  of  the  century  the  Modernists  were  no  longer  the  elite  shock- 
troops  the  Church  had  hoped  they  would  be,  but  defectors  and  incipient  heretics.  Indeed, 
they  posed  the  most  serious  threat  the  Church  had  experienced  since  Martin  Luther,  and 
brought  the  entire  edifice  of  Catholicism  to  the  brink  of  a  schism  unparalleled  for  centuries. 
The  hotbed  for  Modernist  activity  as  it  had  been  for  the  Compagnie  du 
Saint-Sacrement  was  Saint  Sulpice  in  Paris.  Indeed,  one  of  the  most 
resonant  voices  in  the  Modernist  movement  was  the  man  who  was  director 
of  the  Seminary  of  Saint  Sulpice  from  1 852  to  1 884.29  From  Saint 
Sulpice 

Modernist  attitudes  spread  rapidly  to  the  rest  of  France,  and  to  Italy 
and 

Spain.  According  to  these  attitudes,  Biblical  texts  were  not 
unimpugnably  authoritative,  but  had  to  be  understood  in  the  specific 
context  of  their  time.  And  the  Modernists  also  rebelled  against  the 


186 


increasing  centralisation  of  ecclesiastical  power  especially  the 

recently  instituted  doctrine  of  papal  infallibility,3"  which  ran 

flagrantly  counter  to  the  new  trend.  Before  long  Modernist  attitudes 

were  being  disseminated  not  only  by  intellectual  clerics,  but  by 

distinguished  and  influential  writers  as  well.  Figures  like  Roger 

Martin  du  Gard  in  France,  and  Miguel  de 

Unamuno  in  Spain,  were  among  the  primary  spokesmen  for  Modernism. 

The  Church  responded  with  predictable  vigour  and  wrath.  The  Modernists 

were  accused  of  being  Freemasons.  Many  of  them  were  suspended  or  even 

excommunicated,  and  their  books  were  placed  on  the  Index.  In  1903  Pope 

Leo  XIII  established  the  Pontifical  Biblical  Commission  to  monitor  the 

work  of  scriptural  scholars.  In  1907  Pope  Pius  X  issued  a  formal 

condemnation  of 

Modernism.  And  on  September  1st,  1910,  the  Church  demanded  of  its  clerics  an  oath 

against  Modernist  tendencies. 

Nevertheless  Modernism  continued  to  flourish  until  the  First  World  War 

diverted  public  attention  to  other  concerns.  Until  1914  it  remained  a 

cause  celebre.  One  Modernist  author,  the  Abbe  Turmel,  proved  a 

particularly  mischievous  individual.  While  ostensibly  behaving 

impeccably  at  his  teaching  post  in  Brittany,  he  published  a  series  of 

Modernist  works  under  no  less  than  fourteen  different  pseudonyms.  Each 

of  them  was  placed  on  the 

Index,  but  not  until  1929  was  Turmel  identified  as  their  author. 

Needless  to  say,  he  was  then  summarily  excommunicated. 

In  the  meantime  Modernism  spread  to  Britain,  where  it  was  warmly 

welcomed  and  endorsed  by  the  Anglican  Church.  Among  its  Anglican 

adherents  was 

William  Temple,  later  archbishop  of  Canterbury,  who  declared  that  Modernism  'is  what 

most  educated  people  already  believe  '.3'  One  of  Temple's  associates  was  Canon  A.  L. 

Liney.  And  Liney  knew  the  priest  from  whom  we  had  received  that  portentous  letter  which 

spoke  of  'incontrovertible  proof  that  Jesus  did  not  die  on  the  cross. 

Liney,  as  we  knew,  had  worked  for  some  time  in  Paris,  where  he  made  the 

acquaintance  of  the  Abbe  tmile  Hoffet  the  man  to  whom  Sauniere  brought 

the  parchments  found  at  Rennes-leChateau.  With  his  expertise  in 

history,  language  and  linguistics,  Hoffet  was  the  typical  young 


187 


Modernist  scholar  of  his  age.  He  had  not  been  trained  at  Saint 

Sulpice,  however.  On  the  contrary,  he  had  been  trained  in  Lorraine. 

At  the  Seminary 

School  of  Sion:  La  Colline  inspiree.3z 

The  Protocols  of  Sion 

One  of  the  most  persuasive  testimonials  we  found  to  the  existence  and 

activities  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  dated  from  the  late  nineteenth 

century. 

The  testimonial  in  question  is  well  enough  known  but  it  is  not  recognised  as  a  testimonial. 

On  the  contrary  it  has  always  been  associated  with  more  sinister  things.  It  has  played  a 

notorious  role  in  recent  history  and  still  tends  to  arouse  such  violent  emotions,  bitter 

antagonisms  and  gruesome  memories  that  most  writers  are  happy  to  dismiss  it  out  of 

hand.  To  the  extent  that  this  testimonial  has  contributed  significantly  to  human  prejudice 

and  suffering,  such  a  reaction  is  perfectly  understandable.  But  if  the  testimonial  has  been 

criminally  misused,  our  researches  convinced  us  that  it  has  also  been  seriously 

misunderstood. 

The  role  of  Rasputin  at  the  court  of  Nicholas  and  Alexandra  of  Russia  is  more  or  less 

generally  known.  It  is  not  generally  known,  however,  that  there  were  influential,  even 

powerful  esoteric  enclaves  at  the  Russian  court  long  before  Rasputin.  During  the  1890s 

and  1900s  one  such  enclave  formed  itself  around  an  individual  known  as  Monsieur 

Philippe,  and  around  his  mentor,  who  made  periodic  visits  to  the  imperial  court  at 

Petersburg. 

And  Monsieur  Philippe's  mentor  was  none  other  than  the  man  called  Papus33  the  French 

esotericist  associated  with  Jules  Doinel  (founder  of  the  neo-Cathar  church  in  the 

Languedoc),  Peladan  (who  claimed  to  have  discovered  Jesus's  tomb),  Emma  Calve  and 

Claude  Debussy.  In  a  word,  the  "French  occult  revival'  of  the  late  nineteenth  century  had 

not  only  spread  to  Petersburg.  Its  representatives  also  enjoyed  the  privileged  status  of 

personal  confidants  to  the  czar  and  czarina. 

However,  the  esoteric  enclave  of  Papus  and  Monsieur  Philippe  was 

actively  opposed  by  certain  other  powerful  interests  the  Grand  Duchess 

Elizabeth,  for  example,  who  was  intent  on  installing  her  own  favourites 

in  proximity  to  the  imperial  throne.  One  of  the  grand  duchess's 

favourites  was  a  rather  contemptible  individual  known  to  posterity 


188 


under  the  pseudonym  of  Sergei  Nilus.  Sometime  around  1903  Nilus 

presented  a  highly  controversial  document  to  the  czar  a  document  that  supposedly  bore 

witness  to  a  dangerous  conspiracy.  But  if  Nilus  expected  the  czar's  gratitude  for  his 

disclosure,  he  must  have  been  grievously  disappointed.  The  czar  declared  the  document 

to  be  an  outrageous  fabrication,  and  ordered  all  copies  of  it  to  be  destroyed.  And  Nilus 

was  banished  from  the  court  in  disgrace. 

Of  course  the  document  or,  at  any  rate,  a  copy  of  it  -survived.  In  1 903  it  was  serialised  in 

a  newspaper  but  failed  to  attract  any  interest.  In  1 905  it  was  published  again  this  time  as 

an  appendix  to  a  book  by  a  distinguished  mystical  philosopher,  Vladimir  Soloviov.  At  this 

point  it  began  to  attract  attention.  In  the  years  that  followed  it  became  one  of  the  single 

most  infamous  documents  of  the  twentieth  century. 

The  document  in  question  was  a  tract,  or,  more  strictly  speaking,  a 

purported  social  and  political  programme.  It  has  appeared  under  a 

variety  of  slightly  differing  titles,  the  most  common  of  which  is  The 

Protocols  o  f  the  Elders  of  Sion."4  The  Protocols  allegedly  issued  from 

specifically 

Jewish  sources.  And  for  a  great  many  anti-Semites  at  the  time  they  were  convincing  proof 

of  an  "international  Jewish  conspiracy'.  In  1919,  for  example,  they  were  distributed  to 

troops  of  the  White  Russian  Army  and  these  troops,  during  the  next  two  years,  massacred 

some  60,000  Jews  who  were  held  responsible  for  the  1917  Revolution.  By  1 91 9  the 

Protocols  were  also  being  circulated  by  Alfred  Rosenberg,  later  the  chief  racial 

theoretician  and  propagandist  for  the  National  Socialist  Party  in  Germany. 

In  Mein  Kampf  Hitler  used  the  Protocols  to  fuel  his  own  fanatical 

prejudices,  and  is  said  to  have  believed  unquestioningly  in  their 

authenticity.  In  England  the  Protocols  were  immediately  accorded 

credence  by  the  Morning  Post.  Even  The  Times,  in  1 921 ,  took  them 

seriously  and  only  later  admitted  its  error.  Experts  today  concur  and 

rightly  so,  we  concluded  that  the  Protocols,  at  least  in  their  present 

form,  are  a  vicious  and  insidious  forgery.  Nevertheless,  they  are 

still  being  circulated  in  Latin  America,  in  Spain,  even  in  Britain  as 

anti-Semitic  propaganda  .35 


189 


The  Protocols  propound  in  outline  a  blueprint  for  nothing  less  than 

total  world  domination.  On  first  reading  they  would  seem  to  be  the 

Machiavellian  programme  a  kind  of  inter-office  memo,  so  to  speak  for  a 

group  of  individuals  determined  to  impose  a  new  world  order,  with 

themselves  as  supreme  despots.  The  text  advocates  a  many-tentacled 

hydra-headed  conspiracy  dedicated  to  disorder  and  anarchy,  to  toppling 

certain  existing  regimes,  infiltrating  Freemasonry  and  other  such 

organisations,  and  eventually  seizing  absolute  control  of  the  Western 

world's  social,  political  and  economic  institutions.  And  the  anonymous 

authors  of  the  Protocols  declare  explicitly  that  they  'stage-managed' 

whole  peoples  'according  to  a  political  plan  which  no  one  has  so  much 

as  guessed  at  in  the  course  of  many  centuries  1 .36 

To  a  modern  reader  the  Protocols  might  seem  to  have  been  devised  by 

some  fictitious  organisation  like  SPECTRE  -James  Bond's  adversary  in 

Ian 

Fleming's  novels.  When  they  were  first  publici  sed  however,  the 

Protocols  were  alleged  to  have  been  composed  at  an  International  Judaic 

Congress  which  convened  in  Basle  in  1897.  This  allegation  has  long 

since  been  disproved.  The  earliest  copies  of  the  Protocols,  for 

example,  are  known  to  have  been  written  in  French  and  the  1897  Congress 

in  Basle  did  not  include  a  single  French  delegate.  Moreover,  a  copy  of 

the  Protocols  is  known  to  have  been  in  circulation  as  early  as  1884  -  a 

full  thirteen  years  before  the  Basle  Congress  met.  The  1884  copy  of 

the  Protocols  surfaced  in  the  hands  of  a  member  of  a  Masonic  lodge  the 

same  lodge  of  which  Papus  was  a  member  and  subsequently  Grand  Master 

.3'  Moreover,  it  was  in  this  same  lodge  that  the  tradition  of  Ormus  had 

first  appeared  the  legendary 

Egyptian  sage  who  amalgamated  pagan  and  Christian  mysteries  and  founded 

the 

Rose-Croix. 

Modern  scholars  have  established  in  fact  that  the  Protocols,  in  their 

published  form,  are  based  at  least  in  part  on  a  satirical  work  written 

and  printed  in  Geneva  in  1864.  The  work  was  composed  as  an  attack  on 

Napoleon 

III  by  a  man  named  Maurice  Joly,  who  was  subsequently  imprisoned.  Joly  is  said  to  have 

been  a  member  of  a  Rose  Croix  order.  Whether  this  is  true  or  not,  he  was  a  friend  of 

Victor  Hugo;  and  Hugo,  who  shared  Joly's  antipathy  to  Napoleon  III,  was  a  member  of  a 

Rose-Croix  order. 


190 


It  can  thus  be  proved  conclusively  that  the  Protocols  did  not  issue 

from  the  Judaic  Congress  at  Basle  in  1897.  That  being  so,  the  obvious 

question  is  whence  they  did  issue.  Modern  scholars  have  dismissed  them 

as  a  total  forgery,  a  wholly  spurious  document  concocted  by 

anti-Semitic  interests  intent  on  discrediting  Judaism.  And  yet  the 

Protocols  themselves  argue  strongly  against  such  a  conclusion.  They 

contain,  for  example,  a  number  of  enigmatic  references  -references  that 

are  clearly  not 

Judaic.  But  these  references  are  so  clearly  not  Judaic  that  they  cannot  plausibly  have 

been  fabricated  by  a  forger  either.  No  anti-Semitic  forger  with  even  a  modicum  of 

intelligence  would  possibly  have  concocted  such  references  in  order  to  discredit  Judaism. 

For  no  one  would  have  believed  these  references  to  be  of  Judaic  origin. 

Thus,  for  instance,  the  text  of  the  Protocols  ends  with  a  single  statement,  "Signed  by  the 

representatives  of  Sion  of  the  33rd  Degree. 

'3e 

Why  would  an  anti-Semitic  forger  have  made  up  such  a  statement?  Why 

would  he  not  have  attempted  to  incriminate  all  Jews,  rather  than  just  a 

few  the  few  who  constitute  'the  representatives  of  Sion  of  the  33 

Degree'?  Why  would  he  not  declare  that  the  document  was  signed  by, 

say,  the  representatives  of  the  International  Judaic  Congress?  In 

fact,  the  'representatives  of  Sion  of  the  33rd  Degree'  would  hardly 

seem  to  refer  to 

Judaism  at  all,  or  to  any  'international  Jewish  conspiracy'.  If  anything,  it  would  seem  to 

refer  to  something  specifically  Masonic. 

And  the  33rd 

Degree  in  Freemasonry  is  that  of  the  so-called  "Strict  Observance'  the  system  of 

Freemasonry  introduced  by  Hund  at  the  behest  of  his  'unknown  superiors',  one  of  whom 

appears  to  have  been  Charles  Radclyffe. 

The  Protocols  contain  other  even  more  flagrant  anomalies.  The  text  speaks  repeatedly, 

for  example,  of  the  advent  of  a  "Masonic  Kingdom',  and  of  a  "King  of  the  blood  of  Sion', 

who  will  preside  over  this  "Masonic  Kingdom'. 

It  asserts  that  the  future  king  will  be  of  'the  dynastic  roots  of 

King 

David'.  It  affirms  that  'the  King  of  the  Jews  will  be  the  real  Pope' 

and  'the  patriarch  of  an  international  church'.  And  it  concludes  in  a 

most  cryptic  fashion,  "Certain  members  of  the  seed  of  David  will 

prepare  the 

Kings  and  their  heirs  ..  .  Only  the  King  and  the  three  who  stood 


191 


sponsor  for  him  will  know  what  is  coming. "39  As  an  expression  of 

Judaic  thought,  real  or  fabricated,  such  statements  are  blatantly 

absurd.  Since  Biblical  times  no  king  has  figured  in  Judaic  tradition, 

and  the  very  principle  of  kingship  has  become  utterly  irrelevant.  The 

concept  of  a  king  would  have  been  as  meaningless  to  Jews  of  1897  as  it 

would  be  to  Jews  today;  and  no  forger  can  have  been  ignorant  of  this 

fact.  Indeed  the  references  quoted  would  appear  to  be  more  Christian 

than  Judaic.  For  the  last  two  millennia  the  only  "King  of  the  Jews' 

has  been  Jesus  himself  and  Jesus,  according  to  the  Gospels,  was  of  the 

"dynastic  roots  of  David'.  If  one  is  fabricating  a  document  and 

ascribing  it  to  a  Jewish  conspiracy,  why  include  such  patently 

Christian  echoes?  Why  speak  of  so  specifically  and  uniquely  Christian 

a  concept  as  a  pope?  Why  speak  of  an  "international  church'  rather 

than  an  international  synagogue  or  an  international  temple?  And  why 

include  the  enigmatic  allusion  to  'the 

King  and  the  three  who  stood  sponsor'  which  is  less  suggestive  of 

Judaism  and  Christianity  than  it  is  of  the  secret  societies  of  Johann 

Valentin 

Andrea  and  Charles  Nodier?  If  the  Protocols  issued  wholly  from  a  propagandist's 

antiSemitic  imagination,  it  is  difficult  to  imagine  a  propagandist  so  inept,  or  so  ignorant  and 

uninformed. 

On  the  basis  of  prolonged  and  systematic  research,  we  reached  certain 

conclusions  about  the  Protocols  of  the  Elders  of  Sion.  They  are  as 

follows.  1)  There  was  an  original  text  on  which  the  published  version 

of  the 

Protocols  was  based.  This  original  text  was  not  a  forgery.  On  the 

contrary  it  was  authentic.  But  it  had  nothing  whatever  to  do  with 

Judaism  or  an  'international  Jewish  conspiracy'.  It  issued  rather  from 

some  Masonic  organisation  or  Masonically  oriented  secret  society  which 

incorporated  the  word  "Sion'.  2)  The  original  text  on  which  the 

published  version  of  the  Protocols  was  based  need  not  have  been 

provocative  or  inflammatory  in  its  language.  But  it  may  well  have 

included  a  programme  for  gaining  power,  for  infiltrating 

Freemasonry,  for  controlling  social,  political  and  economic  institutions. 

Such  a  programme  would  have  been  perfectly  in  keeping  with  the  secret 

societies  of  the  Renaissance,  as  well  as  with  the  Compagnie  du 

Saint-Sacrement  and  the  institutions  of  Andrea  and  Nodier.  3)  The 


192 


original  text  on  which  the  published  version  of  the  Protocols  was 

based  fell  into  the  hands  of  Sergei  Nilus.  Nilus  did  not  at  first 

intend  it  to  discredit  Judaism.  On  the  contrary,  he  brought  it  to  the 

czar  with  the  intention  of  discrediting  the  esoteric  enclave  at  the 

imperial  court  -the  enclave  of  Papus,  Monsieur  Philippe  and  others  who 

were  members  of  the  secret  society  in  question.  Before  doing  so,  he 

almost  certainly  doctored  the  language,  rendering  it  far  more  venomous 

and  inflammatory  than  it  initially  was.  When  the  czar  spurned  him, 

Nilus  then  released  the  Protocols  in  their  doctored  form  for 

publication.  They  had  failed  in  their  primary  objective  of 

compromising  Papus  and  Monsieur 

Philippe.  But  they  might  still  serve  a  secondary  purpose  that  of 

fostering  anti-Semitism.  Although  Nilus's  chief  targets  had  been  Papus 

and  Monsieur 

Philippe,  he  was  hostile  to  Judaism  as  well.  4)  The  published  version  of  the  Protocols  is 

not,  therefore,  a  totally  fabricated  text.  It  is  rather  a  radically  altered  text.  But  despite  the 

alterations  certain  vestiges  of  the  original  version  can  be  discerned  as  in  a  palimpsest,  or 

as  in  passages  of  the  Bible.  These. vestiges  which  referred  to  a  king,  a  pope,  an 

international  church,  and  to  Sion  probably  meant  little  or  nothing  to  Nilus.  He  certainly 

would  not  have  invented  them  himself.  But  if  they  were  already  there,  he  would  have  had 

no  reason,  given  his  ignorance,  to  excise  them.  And  while  such  vestiges  might  have  been 

irrelevant  to  Judaism,  they  might  have  been  extremely  relevant  to  a  secret  society.  As  we 

learned  subsequently,  they  were  and  still  are  of  paramount  importance  to  the  Prieure  de 

Sion. 

The  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or 

While  we  pursued  our  independent  research,  new  "Prieure  documents'  had 

continued  to  appear.  Some  of  them  privately  printed  works,  like  the 

Dossiers  secrets,  and  intended  for  limited  circulation  were  made 

available  to  us  through  the  offices  of  friends  in  France  or  through  the 

Bibliotheque 

Nationale.  Others  appeared  in  book  form,  newly  published  and  released  on  the  market  for 

the  first  time. 


193 


In  some  of  these  works  there  was  additional  information  on  the  late 

nineteenth  century,  and  specifically  on  Berenger  Sauniere. 

According  to  one  such  "up-dated'  account,  Sauniere  did  not  discover  the  fateful 

parchments  in  his  church  by  accident.  On  the  contrary  he  is  said  to  have  been  directed  to 

them  by  emissaries  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  who  visited  him  at  Rennes-leChateau  and 

enlisted  him  as  their  factotum.  In  late  1916  Sauniere  is  reported  to  have  defied  the 

emissaries  of  Sion  and  quarrelled  with  them."  If  this  is  true,  the  cure's  death  in  January 

1917  acquires  a  more  sinister  quality  than  is  generally  ascribed  to  it.  Ten  days  before  his 

death  he  had  been  in  satisfactory  health.  Nevertheless  ten  days  before  his  death  a  coffin 

was  ordered  on  his  behalf.  The  receipt  for  the  coffin,  dated  January  12th,  1917,  is  made 

out  to  Sauniere's  confidante  and  housekeeper,  Marie  Denarnaud. 

A  more  recent  and,  if  anything,  more  apparently  authoritative  "Prieure' 

publication  elaborates  further  on  Sauniere's  story  and  would  seem  to 

confirm,  at  least  in  part,  the  account  summarised  above.  According  to 

this  publication,  Sauniere  himself  was  little  more  than  a  pawn  and  his 

role  in  the  mystery  of  Rennes-leChateau  has  been  much  exaggerated.  The 

real  force  behind  the  events  at  the  mountain  village  is  said  to  have 

been  Sauniere's  friend,  the  Abbe  Henri  Boudet,  cure  of  the  adjacent 

village  of 

Rennes-le-Bains." 

Boudet  is  said  to  have  provided  Sauniere  with  all  his  money  a  total  of  thirteen  million 

francs  between  1887  and  1915.  And  Boudet  is  said  to  have  guided  Sauniere  on  his 

various  projects  the  public  works,  the  construction  of  the  Villa  Bethania  and  the  Tour 

Magdala.  He  is  also  said  to  have  supervised  the  restoration  of  the  church  at 

RennesleChateau,  and  to  have  designed  Sauniere's  perplexing  Stations  of  the  Cross  as  a 

kind  of  illustrated  version,  or  visual  equivalent,  of  a  cryptic  book  of  his  own. 

According  to  this  recent  "Prieure'  publication,  Sauniere  remained 

essentially  ignorant  of  the  real  secret  for  which  he  acted  as  custodian 

until  Boudet,  in  the  throes  of  approaching  death,  confided  it  to  him 

in 

March  1915.  According  to  the  same  publication,  Marie  Denarnaud,  Sauniere's 

housekeeper,  was  in  fact  Boudet's  agent.  It  was  through  her  that  Boudet  supposedly 

transmitted  instructions  to  Sauniere.  And  it  was  to  her  that  all  money  was  made  payable. 

Or,  rather,  most  money. 


194 


For  Boudet,  between  1885  and  1901,  is  said  to  have  paid  7,655,250 

francs  to  the  bishop  of  Carcassonne  the  man  who,  at  his  own  expense, 

dispatched  Sauniere  to 

Paris  with  the  parchments.  The  bishop,  too,  would  seem  then  to  have  been  essentially  in 

Boudet's  employ.  It  is  certainly  an  incongruous  situation  an  important  regional  bishop 

being  the  paid  servit  or  of  a  humble,  backwater  parish  priest.  And  the  parish  priest 

himself?  For.  whom  was  Boudet  working? 

What  interests  did  he  represent?  What  can  have  given  him  the  power  to  enlist  the 

services,  and  the  silence,  of  his  ecclesiastical  superior?  And  who  can  have  furnished  him 

with  such  vast  financial  resources  to  be  dispensed  so  prodigally?  These  questions  are  not 

answered  explicitly.  But  the  answer  is  constantly  implicit  the  Prieure  de  Sion. 

Further  light  on  the  matter  was  shed  by  another  recent  work  which,  like  its  predecessors, 

seemed  to  draw  on  'privileged  sources'  of  information. 

The  work  in  question  is  Le  Tresor  du  triangle  d'or  ("The  Treasure  of 

the 

Golden  Triangle')  by  jean-Luc  Chaumeil,  published  in  1 979.  According 

to  M.  Chaumeil,  a  number  of  clerics  involved  in  the  enigma  of 

Rennes-leChateau  -  Sauniere,  Boudet,  quite  probably  others  like  Hoffet, 

Hoffet's  uncle  at 

Saint  Sulpice  and  the  bishop  of  Carcassonne  were  affiliated  with  a  form  of  "Scottish  Rite' 

Freemasonry.  This  Freemasonry,  M.  Chaumeil  declares,  differed  from  most  other  forms 

in  that  it  was  "Christian,  Hermetic  and  aristocratic'.  In  short,  it  did  not,  like  many  rites  of 

Freemasonry,  consist  primarily  of  free-thinkers  and  atheists.  On  the  contrary,  it  seems  to 

have  been  deeply  religious  and  magically  oriented  emphasising  a  sacred  social  and 

political  hierarchy,  a  divine  order,  an  underlying  cosmic  plan. 

And  the  upper  grades  or  degrees  of  this  Freemasonry,  according  to  M. 

Chaumeil,  were  the  lower  grades  or  degrees  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion." 

In  our  own  researches  we  had  already  encountered  a  Freemasonary  of  the 

sort  M.  Chaumeil  describes.  Indeed  M.  Chaumeil's  description  could 

readily  be  applied  to  the  original  "Scottish  Rite'  introduced  by 

Charles  Radclyffe  and  his  associates.  Both  Radclyffe's  Masonry  and  the 

Masonry  M.  Chaumeil  describes  would  have  been  acceptable,  despite  papal 

condemnation,  to  devout 


195 


Catholics  whether  eighteenth-century  Jacobites  or  nineteenth-century 

French  priests.  In  both  cases  Rome  certainly  disapproved  and  quite  vehemently. 

Nevertheless  the  individuals  involved  seem  not  only  to  have  persisted  in  regarding 

themselves  as  Christians  and  Catholics.  They  also  seem,  on  the  basis  of  available 

evidence,  to  have  received  a  major  and  exhilarating  transfusion  of  faith  a  transfusion  that 

enabled  them  to  see  themselves  as,  if  anything,  more  truly  Christian  than  the  papacy. 

Although  M.  Chaumeil  is  both  vague  and  evasive,  he  strongly  implies  that  in  the  years 

prior  to  1914  the  Freemasonry  of  which  Boudet  and  Sauniere  were  members  became 

amalgamated  with  another  esoteric  institution  -an  institution  that  might  well  explain  some 

of  the  curious  references  to  a  monarch  in  the  Protocols  of  the  Elders  of  Sion,  especially  if, 

as  M.  Chaumeil  further  intimates,  the  real  power  behind  this  other  institution  was  also  the 

Prieure  de  Sion. 

The  institution  in  question  was  called  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or  which 

would  seem  to  be  a  verbal  transposition  of  that  recurring  site, 

Orva1.4' The 

Hieron  du  Val  d'Or  was  a  species  of  secret  political  society  founded,  it  would  appear, 

around  1 873.  It  seems  to  have  shared  much  with  other  esoteric  organisations  of  the 

period.  There  was,  for  example,  a  characteristic  emphasis  on  sacred  geometry  and 

various  sacred  sites.  There  was  an  insistence  on  a  mystical  or  Gnostic  truth  underlying 

mythological  motifs. 

There  was  a  preoccupation  with  the  origins  of  men,  races,  languages  and 

symbols,  such  as  occurs  in  Theosophy.  And  like  many  other  sects  and 

societies  of  the  time,  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or  was  simultaneously 

Christian  and  trans  Christian  It  stressed  the  importance  of  the  Sacred 

Heart,  for  instance,  yet  linked  the  Sacred  Heart  with  other, 

pre-Christian  symbols.  It  sought  to  reconcile  as  the  legendary  Ormus 

was  said  to  have  reconciled  Christian  and  pagan  mysteries.  And  it 

ascribed  special  significance  to 

Druidic  thought  which,  like  many  modern  experts,  it  regarded  as 

partially 

Pythagorean.  All  of  these  themes  are  adumbrated  in  the  published  work 

of 

Sauniere's  friend,  the  Abbe  Henri  Boudet. 

For  the  purposes  of  our  inquiry,  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or  proved  relevant 

by  virtue  of  its  formulation  of  what  M.  Chaumeil  calls  an  "esoteric 


196 


geopolitics'  and  an  "ethnarchical  world  order'.  Translated  into  more 

mundane  terms  this  entailed,  in  effect,  the  establishment  of  a  new  Holy 

Roman  Empire  in  nineteenth-century  Europe  -a  revitalised  and 

reconstituted  Holy  Roman 

Empire,  a  secular  state  that  unified  all  peoples  and  rested  ultimately  on  spiritual,  rather 

than  social,  political  or  economic  foundations.  Unlike  its  predecessor,  this  new  Holy 

Roman  Empire  would  have  been  genuinely  "holy'  genuinely  "Roman'  and  genuinely 

"imperial'  although  the  specific  meaning  of  these  terms  would  have  differed  crucially  from 

the  meaning  accepted  by  tradition  and  convention.  Such  a  state  would  have  realised  the 

centuries-old  dream  of  a  "heavenly  kingdom'  on  earth,  a  terrestrial  replica  or  mirror-image 

of  the  order,  harmony  and  hierarchy  of  the  cosmos.  It  would  have  actualised  the  ancient 

Hermetic  premise,  "As  above,  so  below'.  And  it  was  not  altogether  Utopian  or  naive.  On 

the  contrary,  it  was  at  least  remotely  feasible  in  the  context  of  late  nineteenth-century 

Europe. 

According  to  M.  Chaumeil,  the  objectives  of  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or  were: 

a  theocracy  wherein  nations  would  be  no  more  than  provinces,  their  leaders  but 

proconsuls  in  the  service  of  a  world  occult  government  consisting  of  an  elite.  For  Europe, 

this  regime  of  the  Great  King  implied  a  double  hegemony  of  the  Papacy  and  the  Empire, 

of  the  Vatican  and  of  the  Habsburgs,  who  would  have  been  the  Vatican's  right  arm." 

By  the  nineteenth  century,  of  course,  the  Habsburgs  were  synonymous 

with  the  house  of  Lorraine.  The  concept  of  a  "Great  King'  would  thus 

have  constituted  a  fulfilment  of  Nostradamus's  prophecies.  And  it 

would  also  have  actualised,  at  least  in  some  sense,  the  monarchist 

blueprint  outlined  in  the  Protocols  of  the  Elders  of  Sion.  At  the  same 

time  the  realisation  of  so  grandiose  a  design  would  clearly  have 

entailed  a  number  of  changes  in  existing  institutions.  The  Vatican, 

for  example,  would  presumably  have  been  a  very  different  Vatican  from 

the  one  then  situated  in  Rome.  And  the  Habsburgs  would  have  been  more 

than  imperial  heads  of  state.  They  would  have  become,  in  effect,  a 

dynasty  of  priest-kings,  like  the  pharaohs  of  ancient  Egypt.  Or  like 


197 


the  Messiah  anticipated  by  the  Jews  at  the  dawn  of  the  Christian  era.M.  Chaumeil  does 

not  clarify  the  extent,  if  any,  to  which  the  Habsburgs  themselves  were  actively  involved  in 

these  ambitious  clandestine  designs. 

There  is  a  quantity  of  evidence,  however  including  the  visit  of  a 

Habsburg  archduke  to  Rennes-leChateau  which  seemingly  attests  to  at 

least  some  implication.  But  whatever  plans  were  afoot,  they  would  have 

been  thwarted  by  the  First  World  War,  which,  among  other  things, 

toppled  the 

Habsburgs  from  power. 

As  M.  Chaumeil  explained  them,  the  objectives  of  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or  or  of  the  Prieure 

de  Sion  made  a  certain  logical  sense  in  the  context  of  what  we  had  discovered.  They 

shed  new  light  on  the  Protocols  of  the  Elders  of  Sion.  They  concurred  with  the  stated 

objectives  of  various  secret  societies,  including  those  of  Charles  Radclyffe  and  Charles 

Nodier.  Most  important  of  all,  they  conformed  to  the  political  aspirations  which,  through 

the  centuries,  we  had  traced  in  the  house  of  Lorraine. 

But  if  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or's  objectives  made  logical  sense,  they  did 

not  make  practical  political  sense.  On  what  basis,  we  wondered,  would 

the 

Habsburgs  have  asserted  their  right  to  function  as  a  dynasty  of  priest-kings?  Unless  it 

commanded  overwhelming  popular  support,  such  a  right  could  not  possibly  have  been 

asserted  against  the  republican  government  of  France  not  to  mention  the  imperial 

dynasties  then  presiding  over  Russia,  Germany  and  Britain.  And  how  could  the  necessary 

popular  support  have  been  obtained? 

In  the  context  of  nineteenth-century  political  realities  such  a  scheme,  while  logically 

consistent,  seemed  to  us  effectively  absurd.  Perhaps,  we  concluded,  we  had 

misconstrued  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or.  Or  perhaps  the  members  of  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or 

were  quite  simply  potty. 

Until  we  obtained  further  information,  we  had  no  choice  but  to  shelve 

the  matter.  In  the  meantime,  we  turned  our  attention  to  the  present  to 

determine  whether  the  Prieure  de  Sion  existed  today.  As  we  quickly 

discovered,  it  did.  Its  members  were  not  at  all  potty,  and  they  were 

pursuing,  in  the  post-war  twentieth  century,  a  programme  essentially 


198 


similar  to  that  pursued  in  the  nineteenth  by  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or. 

8  The  Secret  Society  Today 

The  French  journal  Officiel  is  a  weekly  government  publication  in  which  all  groups, 

societies  and  organisations  in  the  country  must  declare  themselves.  In  the  Journal  Of 

ficiel  for  the  week  of  July  20th,  1 956  (Issue  Number  1 67),  there  is  the  following  entry: 

25  juin  1956.  Declaration  a  la  sous-prefecture  de  Saint  Julien-en-Genevois.  Prieure  de 

Sion.  But:  etudes  et  entr'aide  des  membres.  Siege  social:  Sous-Cassan,  Annemasse 

(Haute  Savoie). 

(June  25th,  1956.  Declaration  to  the  Sub-Prefecture  of 

Saint-Julien-en-Genevois.  Prieure  de  Sion.  Objectives:  studies  and  mutual  aid  to 

members.  Head  office:  SousCassan,  Annemasse,  Haute  Savoie.) 

The  Prieure  de  Sion  was  officially  registered  with  the  police.  Here,  at  any  rate,  appeared 

to  be  definitive  proof  of  its  existence  in  our  own  age  even  though  we  found  it  somewhat 

odd  that  a  supposedly  secret  society  should  thus  broadcast  itself.  But  perhaps  it  was  not 

so  odd  after  all.  There  was  no  listing  for  the  Prieure  de  Sion  in  any  French  telephone 

directory.  The  address  proved  too  vague  to  allow  us  to  identify  a  specific  office,  house, 

building  or  even  street.  And  the  Sub-Prefecture,  when  we  rang  them,  were  of  little  help. 

There  had  been  numerous  inquiries,  they  said,  with  weary,  long-suffering  resignation.  But 

they  could  provide  no  further  information.  As  far  as  they  knew,  the  address  was 

untraceable.  If  nothing  else,  this  gave  us  pause. 

Among  other  things,  it  made  us  wonder  how  certain  individuals  had 

contrived  to  register  a  fictitious  or  nonexistent  address  with  the 

police  and  then,  apparently,  escape  all  subsequent  consequences  and 

prosecution  of  the  matter.  Were  the  police  really  as  insouciant  and 

indifferent  as  they  sounded?  Or  had  Sion  somehow  enlisted  their 


199 


cooperation  and  discretion?  The  Sub-Prefecture,  at  our  request, 
provided  us  with  a  copy  of  what  purported  to  be  the  Prieure  de  Sion's  statutes.  This 
document,  which  consisted  of  twenty-one  articles,  was  neither  controversial  nor 
particularly  illuminating.  It  did  not,  for  example,  clarify  the  Order's  objectives.  It  gave  no 
indication  of  Sion's  possible  influence,  membership  or  resources.  On  the  whole,  it  was 
rather  bland  while  at  the  same  time  compounding  our  perplexity.  At  one  point,  for 
instance,  the  statutes  declared  that  admission  to  the  Order  was  not  to  be  restricted  on  the 
basis  of  language,  social  origin,  class  or  political  ideology.  At  another  point,  they 
stipulated  that  all  Catholics  over  the  age  of  twenty-one  were  eligible  for  candidature. 
Indeed  the  statutes  in  general  appeared  to  have  issued  from  a  piously, 
even  fervently  Catholic  institution.  And  yet  Sion's  alleged 
Grand  Masters  and  past  history,  in  so  far  as  we  had  been  able  to  trace 
them,  hardly  attested  to  any  orthodox  Catholicism.  For  that  matter, 
even  the  modern  "Prieure  documents',  many  of  them  published  at  the  same 
time  as  the  statutes,  were  less  Catholic  in  orientation  than  Hermetic, 
even  heretically  Gnostic.  The  contradiction  seemed  to  make  no  sense 
-unless 

Sion,  like  the  Knights  Templar  and  the  Compagnie  du  Saint-Sacrement, 

demanded  Catholicism  as  an  exoteric  prerequisite,  which  might  then  be 

transcended  within  the  Order.  At  any  rate  Siou,  like  the  Temple  and 

the 

Compagnie  du  Saint-Sacrement,  apparently  demanded  an  obedience  which,  in  its 

absolute  nature,  subsumed  all  other  commitments,  secular  or  spiritual. 

According  to  Article  vii  of  the  statutes,  "The  candidate  must  renounce  his  personality  in 

order  to  devote  himself  to  the  service  of  a  high  moral  apostolate'. 

The  statutes  further  declare  that  Sion  functions  under  the  subtitle 

of 

Chevalerie  d'lnstitutions  et  Regies  Catholiques,  d'Union  Independante 

et 

Traditionaliste  ("Chivalry  of  Catholic  Rules  and  Institutions  of  the  Independent  and 

Traditionalist  Union').  This  abbreviates  to  CIRCUIT,"  the  name  of  a  magazine  which, 

according  to  the  statutes,  is  published  internally  by  the  Order  and  circulated  within  its 

ranks. 

Perhaps  the  most  interesting  information  in  the  statutes  is  that  since 


200 


1956  the  Prieure  de  Sion  would  seem  to  have  expanded  its  membership 
almost  fivefold.  According  to  a  page  reproduced  in  the  Dossiers  secrets,  printed 
sometime  before  1956,  Sion  had  a  total  of  1,093  members  ranked  in  seven  grades.  The 
structure  was  traditionally  pyramidal.  At  the  top  was  the  Grand  Master,  or  "Nautonnier'. 
There  were  three  in  the  grade  below  him  ("Prince  Noachite  de  Notre  Dame'),  nine  in  the 
grade  below  that  ("Croise  de  Saint-Jean').  Each  grade  from  here  downwards  was  three 
times  as  large  as  the  grade  before  it  27,  81 ,  243,  729.  The  three  highest  grades  the 
Grand  Master  and  his  twelve  immediate  subordinates  were  said  to  constitute  the  thirteen 
"Rose-Croix'.  The  number  would  also,  of  course,  correspond  to  anything  from  a  satanic 
coven  to  Jesus  and  his  twelve  disciples. 

According  to  the  post-1956  statutes,  Sion  had  a  total  membership  of  9,841 ,  ranked  not  in 
seven  grades  but  in  nine.  The  structure  seems  to  have  remained  essentially  the  same, 
although  it  was  clarified,  and  two  new  grades  had  been  introduced  at  the  bottom  of  the 
hierarchy  thus  further  insulating  the  leadership  behind  a  larger  network  of  novices. 
The  Grand 

Master  still  retained  the  title  of  "Nautonnier'.  The  three  "Princes 

Noachites  de  Notre  Dame'  were  simply  called  "Seneschals'.  The  nine  "Croises  de  Saint- 
Jean'  were  called  "Constables'.  The  organisation  of  the  Order,  in  the  portentously 
enigmatic  jargon  of  the  statutes,  was  as  follows: 

The  general  assembly  is  composed  of  all  members  of  the  association.  It  consists  of  729 
provinces,  27  command  eries  and  an  Arch  designated  "Kyria'. 
Each  of  the  command  eries  as  well  as  the  Arch,  must  consist  of  forty  members,  each 
province  of  thirteen  members. 
The  members  are  divided  into  two  effective  groups: 

a)  The  Legion,  charged  with  the  apostolate.  b)  The  Phalange,  guardian  of  the  Tradition. 
The  members  compose  a  hierarchy  of  nine  grades. 
The  hierarchy  of  nine  grades  consists  of: 


201 


a)  in  the  729  provinces  1)  Novices:  6561  members  2)  Croises:  2187 

members  b)  in  the  27  command  eries  3)  Preux:  729  members  4)  Ecuyers: 

243  members  5)  Chevaliers:  81  members  6)  Commandeurs:  27  members  c)  in  the  Arch 

"Kyria':  7)  Connetables:  9  members  8)  Senechaux:  3  members  9) 

Nautonnier:  1  member  2 

Apparently  for  official  bureaucratic  and  legal  purposes,  four 

individuals  were  listed  as  comprising  "The  Council'.  Three  of  the 

names  were  unfamiliar  to  us  and,  quite  possibly,  pseudonyms  Pierre 

Bonhomme,  born  December  7th,  1934,  President;  Jean  Delaval,  born  March 

7th,  1931,  Vice-President;  Pierre 

Defagot,  born  December  11th,  1928,  Treasurer.  One  name,  however,  we 

had  encountered  before  Pierre  Plantard,  born  March  18th,  1920, 

Secretary-General.  According  to  the  research  of  another  writer,  M. 

Plantard's  official  title  was  Secretary  General  of  the  Department  of 

Documentation  which  implies,  of  course,  that  there  are  other  departments  as  well. 

Alain  Poher 

By  the  early  1970s  the  Prieure  de  Sion  had  become  a  modest  cause 

celebre  among  certain  people  in  France.  There  were  a  number  of 

magazine  articles  and  some  newspaper  coverage.  On  February  13th,  1973, 

the  Midi  Libre  published  a  lengthy  feature  on  Sion,  Sauniere  and  the 

mystery  of  Rennes-leChateau.  This  feature  specifically  linked  Sion 

with  a  possible  survival  of  the  Merovingian  bloodline  into  the 

twentieth  century.  It  also  suggested  that  the  Merovingian  descendants 

included  a  'true  pretender  to  the  throne  of  France',  whom  it  identified 

as  M.  Alain  Poher. 3 

While  not  especially  well  known  in  Britain  or  the  United  States  Alain 

Poher  was  (and  still  is)  a  household  name  in  France.  During  the  Second 


202 


World  War  he  won  the  Resistance  Medal  and  the  Croix  de  Guerre. 

Following  the  resignation  of  de 

Gaulle,  he  was  Provisional  President  of  France  from  April  28th  to  June 

1 9th ,  1 969.  He  occupied  the  same  position  on  the  death  of  Georges 

Pompidou,  from 

April  2nd  to  May  27th.  1974.  In  1973,  when  the  feature  in  the  Midi  Libre  appeared,  M. 

Poher  was  President  of  the  French  Senate. 

As  far  as  we  know,  M.  Poher  never  commented,  one  way  or  the  other,  on  his  alleged 

connections  with  the  Prieure  de  Sion  and/or  the  Merovingian  bloodline.  In  the 

genealogies  of  the  "Prieure  documents',  however,  there  is  mention  of  Arnaud,  Count  of 

Poher,  who,  sometime  between  894  and  896,  intermarried  with  the  Plantard  family  the 

direct,  descendants  supposedly  of  Dagobert  II.  Arnaud  de  Poher's  grandson,  Alain, 

became  duke  of  Brittany  in  937.  Whether  or  not  M.  Poher  acknowledges  Sion,  it  would 

thus  seem  clear  that  Sion  acknowledges  him  as  being,  at  the  very  least,  of  Merovingian 

descent. 

The  Lost  King 

In  the  meantime,  while  we  pursued  our  research  and  the  French  media 

accorded  periodic  flurries  of  attention  to  the  whole  affair,  new 

"Prieure  documents'  continued  to  appear.  As  before,  some  appeared  in 

book  form,  others  as  privately  printed  pamphlets  or  articles  deposited 

in  the  Bibliotheque 

Nationale.  If  anything,  they  only  compounded  the  mystification. 

Someone  was  obviously  producing  this  material,  but  their  real  objective 

remained  unclear.  At  times  we  nearly  dismissed  the  whole  affair  as  an 

elaborate  joke,  a  hoax  of  extravagant  proportions.  If  this  were  true, 

however,  it  was  a  hoax  that  certain  people  seemed  to  have  been 

sustaining  for  centuries  and  if  one  invests  so  much  time,  energy  and 

resources  in  a  hoax,  can  it  really  be  called  a  hoax  at  all?  In  fact 

the  interlocking  skeins  and  the  overall  fabric  of  the  "Prieure 

documents'  were  less  a  joke  than  a  work  of  art  a  display  of  ingenuity, 

suspense,  brilliance,  intricacy,  historical  knowledge  and  architectonic 

complexity  worthy  of,  say,  James  Joyce.  And  while  Finnegans 

Wake  may  be  regarded  as  a  joke  of  sorts,  there  is  no  question  that  its 


203 


creator  took  it  very  seriously  indeed.  It  is  important  to  note  that 
the  "Prieure  documents'  did  not  constitute  a  conventional  'bandwagon'  - 
a  lucrative  fashion  which  burgeoned  into  a  profitable  industry, 
spawning  sequels,  'prequels'  and  assorted  other  derivatives.  They 
could  not  be  compared,  for  example,  to  von  Daniken's 
Chariots  of  the  Gods,  the  sundry  accounts  of  the  Bermuda  Triangle  or 
the  works  of  Carlos  Castaneda.  Whatever  the  motivation  behind  the 
"Prieure  documents',  it  was  clearly  not  financial  gain.  Indeed,  money 
seemed  to  be  only  an  incidental  factor,  if  a  factor  at  all.  Although 
they  would  have  proved  extremely  lucrative  in  book  form,  the  most 
important  "Prieure  documents'  were  not  published  as  such.  Despite 
their  commercial  potential,  they  were  confined  to  private  printings, 
limited  editions  and  discreet  deposition  at  the  Bibliotheque  Nationale 

-where,  for  that  matter,  they  were  not  even  always  available.   And  the 
information  that  did  appear  in  conventional  book  form  was  not  haphazard  or 
arbitrary  and  for  the  most  part  it  was  not  the  work  of  independent  researchers. 
Most  of  it  seemed  to  issue  from  a  single  source.   Most  of  it  was  based  on  the 
testimony  of  very  specific  informants,  who  measured  out  precise  quantities  of 
new  information  as  if  with  an  eyedropper  and  according  to  some  prearranged  plan. 
Each  new  fragment  of  information  added  at  least  one  modification,  one  further 
piece  to  the  overall  jigsaw.   Many  of  these  fragments  were  released  under 
different  names.   A  superficial  impression  was  thus  conveyed  of  an  array  of 

separate  writers,  each  of  whom  confirmed  and  imparted  credibility  to  the  Others. 

There  appeared  to  us  only  one  plausible  motivation  for  such  a  procedure 
to  attract  public  attention  to  certain  matters,  to  establish 
credibility,  to  engender  interest,  to  create  a  psychological  climate  or 
atmosphere  that  kept  people  waiting  ~with  hated  breath  for  new 
revelations.  In  short,  the  "Prieure  documents'  seemed  specifically 
calculated  to  'pave  the  way'  for  some  astonishing  disclosure.  Whatever 
this  disclosure  might  eventually  prove  to  be,  it  apparently  dictated  a 
prolonged  process  of  'softening  up'  of  preparing  people.  And  whatever 
this  disclosure  might  eventually  prove  to  be,  it  somehow  involved  the 
Merovingian  dynasty,  the  perpetuation  of  that  dynasty's  bloodline  to 


204 


the  present  day  and  a  clandestine  kingship.  Thus,  in  a  magazine 

article  purportedly  written  by  a  member  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  we 

found  the  following  statement,  "Without  the  Merovingians,  the  Prieure 

de  Sion  would  not  exist,  and  without  the 

Prieure  de  Sion,  the  Merovingian  dynasty  would  be  extinct."  The  relationship  between  the 

Order  and  the  bloodline  is  partly  clarified,  partly  further  confused,  by  the  following 

elaboration: 

The  King  is,  shepherd  and  pastor  at  the  same  time.  Sometimes  he 

dispatches  some  brilliant  ambassador  to  his  vassal  in  power,  his 

factotum,  one  who  has  the  felicity  of  being  subject  to  death.  Thus 

Rene  d'Anjou,  Connetable  de 

Bourbon,  Nicolas  Fouquet ...  and  numerous  others  for  whom  astonishing 

success  is  followed  by  inexplicable  disgrace  for  these  emissaries  are 

both  terrible  and  vulnerable.  Custodians  of  a  secret,  one  can  only 

exalt  them  or  destroy  them.  Thus  people  like  Gilles  de  Rais,  Leonardo 

da  Vinci,  Joseph 

Balsamo,  the  dukes  of  Nevers  and  Gonzaga,  whose  wake  is  attended  by  a  perfume  of 

magic  in  which  sulphur  is  mingled  with  incense  the  perfume  of  the  Magdalene. 

If  King  Charles  VII,  on  the  entrance  of  Jeanne  d'Arc  into  the  great  hall  of  his  castle  at 

Chinon,  hid  himself  among  the  throng  of  his  courtiers,  it  was  not  for  the  sake  of  a  frivolous 

joke  where  was  the  humour  in  it?  but  because  he  already  knew  of  whom  she  was  the 

ambassadress.  And  that,  before  her,  he  was  scarcely  more  than  one  courtier  among  the 

others.  The  secret  she  delivered  to  him  in  private  was  contained  in  these  words: 

"Gentle  lord,  I  come  on  behalf  of  the  King.  '4 

The  implications  of  this  passage  are  provocative  and  intriguing.  One  is  that  the  King  the 

"Lost  King',  presumably  of  the  Merovingian  bloodline  continues  in  effect  to  rule,  simply  by 

virtue  of  who  he  is.  Another,  and  perhaps  even  more  startling,  implication  is  that  temporal 

sovereigns  are  aware  of  his  existence,  acknowledge  him,  respect  him  and  fear  him.  A 

third  implication  is  that  the  Grand  Master  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  or  some  other  member  of 

the  Order,  acts  as  ambassador  between  the  "Lost  King'  and  his  temporal  deputies  or 

surrogates. 


205 


And  such  ambassadors,  it  would  seem,  are  deemed  expendable. 

Curious  Pamphlets  in  the  Bibliotheque  Nationale,  Paris 

In  1966  a  curious  exchange  of  letters  occurred  concerning  the  death  of 

Leo 

Schidlof  the  man  who,  under  the  pseudonym  of  Henri  Lobineau,  was  at 

that  time  alleged  to  have  composed  the  genealogies  in  some  of  the 

"Prieure  documents'.  The  first  letter,  which  appeared  in  the  Catholic 

Weekly  of 

Geneva,  is  dated  October  22nd,  1966.  It  is  signed  by  one  Lionel  Burrus,  who  claims  to 

speak  on  behalf  of  an  organisation  called  Swiss  Christian  Youth. 

M.  Burrus  announces  that  Leo  Schidlof,  alias  Henri  Lobineau,  died  in 

Vienna  the  week  before,  on  October  17th.  He  then  defends  the  deceased 

against  a  slanderous  attack  which,  he  claims,  appeared  in  a  recent 

Roman  Catholic  bulletin.  M.  Burrus  registers  his  indignation  at  this 

attack.  In  his  eulogy  on  Schidlof  he  declares  that  the  latter,  under 

the  name  of  Lobineau,  compiled,  in  1956,  'a  remarkable  study..  .  on 

the  genealogy  of  the 

Merovingian  kings  and  the  affair  of  Rennes-leChateau'. 

Rome,  M.  Burrus  asserts,  did  not  dare  asperse  Schidlof  when  he  was  alive,  even  though  it 

had  a  comprehensive  dossier  on  the  man  and  his  activities. 

But  even  now,  despite  his  death,  Merovingian  interests  continue  to  be 

furthered.  To  support  this  contention,  M.  Burrus  seems  to  wax  more 

than  a  little  preposterous.  He  cites  what,  in  1966,  was  the  emblem  of 

Antar,  one  of  France's  leading  petrol  companies.  This  emblem  is  said 

to  embody  a 

Merovingian  device  and  depict,  albeit  in  cartoon  fashion,  a  Merovingian 

king.  And  this  emblem,  according  to  M.  Burrus,  proves  that  information 

and  propaganda  on  behalf  of  the  Merovingians  is  being  effectively 

disseminated;  and  even  the  French  clergy,  he  adds  with  imperfect 

relevance,  do  not  always  jump  at  the  behest  of  the  Vatican.  As  for  Leo 

Schidlof,  M.  Burrus  concludes  (with  echoes  of  Freemasonry  and  Cathar 

thought),  "For  all  those  who  knew 

Henri  Lobineau,  who  was  a  great  voyager  and  a  great  seeker,  a  loyal  and 

good  man,  he  remains  in  our  hearts  as  the  symbol  of  a  "maitre  parfait", 


206 


whom  one  respects  and  venerates.  "S  This  letter  from  Lionel  Burrus 

would  seem  distinctly  cranky.  Certainly  it  is  extremely  curious.  More 

curious  still,  however,  is  the  alleged  attack  on 

Schidlof  in  a  Roman  Catholic  bulletin,  from  which  M.  Burrus  quotes  liberally.  The  bulletin, 

according  to  M.  Burrus,  accuses  Schidlof  of  being  "pro-Soviet,  a  notorious  Freemason 

actively  preparing  the  way  for  a  popular  monarchy  in  France'. 6  It  is  a  singular  and 

seemingly  contradictory  accusation  for  one  does  not  usually  combine  Soviet  sympathies 

with  an  attempt  to  establish  a  monarchy.  And  yet  the  bulletin,  as  M.  Burrus  claims  to 

quote  it,  makes  charges  that  are  even  more  extravagant: 

The  Merovingian  descendants  have  always  been  behind  all  heresies, 

from 

Arianism,  through  the  Cathars  and  the  Templars,  to  Freemasonry.  At  the  beginning  of  the 

Protestant  Reformation,  Cardinal  Mazarin,  in  July  1659,  had  their  chateau  of  Barberie, 

dating  from  the  twelfth  century,  destroyed.  For  the  house  and  family  in  question,  all 

through  the  centuries,  had  spawned  nothing  but  secret  agitators  against  the  Church." 

M.  Burrus  does  not  specifically  identify  the  Roman  Catholic  bulletin  in 

which  this  quotation  supposedly  appeared,  so  we  could  not  verify  its 

authenticity.  If  it  is  authentic,  however,  it  would  be  of  considerable 

significance.  It  would  constitute  independent  testimony,  from  Roman 

Catholic  sources,  of  the  razing  of  Chateau  Barberie  in  Nevers.  It 

would  also  seem  to  suggest  at  least  a  partial  raison  d'etre  for  the 

Prieure  de 

Sion.  We  had  already  come  to  see  Sion,  and  the  families  associated  with  it,  as 

manoeuvring  for  power  on  their  own  behalf  and  in  the  process  repeatedly  clashing  with 

the  Church.  According  to  the  above  quotation,  however,  opposition  to  the  Church  would 

not  seem  to  have  been  a  matter  of  chance,  circumstances  or  even  politics.  On  the 

contrary  it  would  seem  to  have  been  a  matter  of  on-going  policy.  This  confronted  us  with 

another  contradiction.  For  the  statutes  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  had  issued,  at  least 

ostensibly,  from  a  staunchly  Catholic  institution. 

Not  long  after  the  publication  of  this  letter,  Lionel  Burrus  was  killed 

in  a  car  accident  which  claimed  six  other  victims  as  well.  Shortly 


207 


before  his  death,  however,  his  letter  elicited  a  response  even  more 
curious  and  provocative  than  that  which  he  himself  had  written.  This 
response  was  published  as  a  privately  printed  pamphlet  under  the  name 
of  S.  Roux.e 

In  certain  respects  S.  Roux's  text  would  appear  to  echo  the  original  attack  on  Schidlof 
which  prompted  M.  Burrus's  letter.  It  also  chastises  M.  Burrus  for  being  young,  over- 
zealous,  irresponsible  and  prone  to  talk  too  much. 
But  while  seeming  to  condemn  M.  Burrus's  position,  not  only  does  S. 
Roux's  pamphlet  confirm  his  facts,  but  it  actually  elaborates  on  them. 
Leo 

Schidlof,  S.  Roux  affirms,  was  a  dignitary  of  the  Swiss  Grande  Loge  Alpina  the  Masonic 
lodge  whose  imprint  appeared  on  certain  of  the  "Prieure  documents'.  According  to  S. 
Roux,  Schidlof  'did  not  conceal  his  sentiments  of  friendship  for  the  Eastern  Bloc'."  As  for 
M. 

Burrus's  statements  about  the  Church,  S.  Roux  continues: 
one  cannot  say  that  the  Church  is  ignorant  of  the  line  of  the  Razes, 
but  it  must  be  remembered  that  all  its  descendants,  since  Dagobert, 
have  been  secret  agitators  against  both  the  royal  line  of  France  and 
against  the 

Church  and  that  they  have  been  the  source  of  all  heresies.  The  return  of  a  Merovingian 
descendant  to  power  would  entail  for  France  the  proclamation  of  a  popular  monarchy 
allied  to  the  USSR,  and  the  triumph  of  Freemasonry  in  short,  the  disappearance  of 
religious  freedom." 

If  all  of  this  sounds  rather  extraordinary,  the  concluding  statements  of  S.  Roux's  pamphlet 
are  even  more  so: 

As  for  the  question  of  Merovingian  propaganda  in  France,  everyone  knows 
that  the  publicity  of  Antar  Petrol,  with  a  Merovingian  king  holding  a 
Lily  and  a  Circle,  is  a  popular  appeal  in  favour  of  returning  the 
Merovingians  to  power.  And  one  cannot  but  wonder  what  Lobineau  was 
preparing  at  the  time  of  his  decease  in  Vienna,  on  the  eve  of  profound 
changes  in  Germany.  Is  it  not  also  true  that  Lobineau  prepared  in 
Austria  a  future  reciprocal  accord  with 

France?  Was  not  this  the  basis  of  the  Franco-Russian  accord?" 

Not  surprisingly  we  were  utterly  bewildered,  wondering  what  the  devil  S.  Roux  was  talking 
about;  if  anything,  he  appeared  to  have  outdone  M. 


208 


Burrus  in  nonsense.  Like  the  bulletin  M.  Burrus  had  attacked,  S.  Roux 

links  together  political  objectives  as  apparently  diverse  and 

discordant  as  Soviet  hegemony  and  popular  monarchy.  He  goes  further 

than  M.  Burrus  by  declaring  that  "everyone  knows'  the  emblem  of  a 

petrol  company  to  be  a  subtle  form  of  propaganda  for  an  unknown  and 

apparently  ludicrous  cause.  He  hints  at  sweeping  changes  in 

France,  Germany  and  Austria  as  if  these  changes  were  already  'on  the  cards',  if  not 

indeed  faits  accomplis.  And  he  speaks  of  a  mysterious  "Franco-Russian'  accord  as  if  this 

accord  were  a  matter  of  public  knowledge. 

On  first  reading  S.  Roux's  pamphlet  appeared  to  make  no  sense  whatever.  A  closer 

scrutiny  convinced  us  that  it  was,  in  fact,  another  ingenious  "Prieure  document'deliberately 

calculated  to  mystify,  to  confuse,  to  tease,  to  sow  hints  of  something  portentous  and 

monumental.  In  any  case  it  offered,  in  its  wildly  eccentric  way,  an  intimation  of  the 

magnitude  of  the  issues  involved.  If  S.  Roux  was  correct  the  subject  of  our  inquiry  was 

not  confined  to  the  activities  of  some  elusive  but  innocuous  latter-day  chivalric  order.  If  S. 

Roux  was  correct  the  subject  of  our  inquiry  pertained  in  some  way  to  the  upper  echelons 

of  high-level  international  politics. 

The  Catholic  Traditionalists 

In  1977  a  new  and  particularly  significant  "Prieure  document'  appeared  a  six-page 

pamphlet  entitled  Le  Cercle  d'Ulysse  written  by  one  jean  Delaude. 

In  the  course  of  his  text  the  writer  addresses  himself  explicitly  to 

the 

Prieure  de  Sion.  And  although  he  rehashes  much  older  material,  he  also  furnishes  certain 

new  details  about  the  Order: 

In  March  1 177  Baudouin  was  compelled,  at  Saint  Leonard  d'Acre,  to 

negotiate  and  prepare  the  constitution  of  the  Order  of  the  Temple, 

under  the  directives  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion.  In  1 1 1 8  the  Order  of  the 

Temple  was  then  established  by  Hugues  de  Payen.  From  1 1 1 8  to  1 1 88  the 

Prieure  de  Sion  and  the  Order  of  the  Temple  shared  the  same  Grand 

Masters.  Since  the  separation  of  the  two  institutions  in  1 188,  the 


209 


Prieure  de  Sion  had  counted  twenty-seven  Grand  Masters  to  the  present 

day.  The  most  recent  were: 

Charles  Nodierfrom  1801  to  1844 

Victor  Hugo  from  1844  to  1885 

Claude  Debussyfrom  1885  to  1918 

Jean  Cocteau  from  1918  to  1963 

and  from  1963  until  the  advent  of  the  new  order,  the  Abbe  Ducaud-Bourget. 

For  what  is  the  Pieure  de  Sion  preparing?  I  do  not  know,  but  it 

represents  a  power  capable  of  confronting  the  Vatican  in  the  days  to 

come.  Monsignor 

Lefebvre  is  a  most  active  and  redoubtable  member,  capable  of  saying: 

"You  make  me  Pope  and  I  will  make  you  King,  "z 

There  are  two  important  new  fragments  of  information  in  this  extract. 

One  is  the  alleged  affiliation  with  the  Prieure  de  Sion  of  Archbishop 

Marcel 

Lefebvre.  Monsignor  Lefebvre,  of  course,  represents  the  extreme  conservative  wing  of 

the  Roman  Catholic  Church.  He  was  vociferously  outspoken  against  Pope  Paul  VI,  whom 

he  flagrantly  and  flamboyantly  defied. 

In  1976  and  1977,  in  fact,  he  was  explicitly  threatened  with  excommunication;  and  his 

brazen  indifference  to  this  threat  nearly  precipitated  a  full-scale  ecclesiastical  schism.  But 

how  could  we  reconcile  a  militant  'hard-line'  Catholic  like  Monsignor  Lefebvre  with  a 

movement  and  an  Order  that  was  Hermetic,  if  not  downright  heretical,  in  orientation? 

There  seemed  to  be  no  explanation  for  this  contradiction:  unless 

Monsignor 

Lefebvre  was  a  modern-day  representative  of  the  nineteenth-century 

Freemasonry  associated  with  the  Hieron  du  Val  d'Or  the  "Christian,  aristocratic  and 

Hermetic  Freemasonry'  which  presumed  to  regard  itself  as  more  Catholic  than  the  pope. 

The  second  major  point  in  the  extract  quoted  above  is,  of  course,  the 

identification  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion's  Grand  Master  at  that  time  as 

Abbe 

Ducaud-Bourget.  Francois  Ducaud-Bourget  was  born  in  1897  and  trained  for  the 

priesthood  at  predictably  enough  the  Seminary  of  Saint  Sulpice. 

He  is  thus  likely  to  have  known  many  of  the  Modernists  there  at  the 

time  and,  quite  possibly,  Emile  Hoffet.  Subsequently  he  was  Conventual 

Chaplain  of  the  Sovereign  Order  of  Malta.  For  his  activities  during 


210 


the  Second  World  War  he  received  the  Resistance  Medal  and  the  Croix  de 

Guerre. 

Today  he  is  recognised  as  a  distinguished  man  of  letters  a  member  of 

the 

Academie  Francaise,  a  biographer  of  important  French  Catholic  writers 

like 

Paul  Claudel  and  Francois  Mauriac,  and  a  highly  esteemed  poet  in  his  own  right. 

Like  Monsignor  Lefebvre  the  Abbe  Ducaud-Bourget  assumed  a  stance  of  militant 

opposition  to  Pope  Paul  V1 .  Like  Monsignor  Lefebvre  he  is  an  adherent  of  the  Tridentine 

Mass.  Like  Monsignor  Lefebvre  he  has  proclaimed  himself  a  "traditionalist',  adamantly 

opposed  to  ecclesiastical  reform  or  any  attempt  to  "modernise'  Roman  Catholicism. 

On  May  22nd,  1976  he  was  forbidden  to  administer  confession  or 

absolution  and,  like  Monsignor 

Lefebvre,  he  boldly  defied  the  interdict  imposed  on  him  by  his  superiors. 

On  February  27th,  1977  he  led  a  thousand  Catholic  traditionalists  in  their  occupation  of  the 

Church  of  Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet  in  Paris. 

If  Marcel  Lefebvre  and  Francois  Ducaud-Bourget  appear  to  be 

'right-wing'  theologically,  they  would  seem  to  be  equally  so 

politically.  Before  the 

Second  World  War,  Monsignor  Lefebvre  was  associated  with  Action  Franqaise  the 

extreme  right  of  French  politics  at  the  time,  which  shared  certain  attitudes  in  common  with 

National  Socialism  in  Germany.  More  recently  the  "rebel  archbishop'  attracted 

considerable  notoriety  by  warmly  endorsing  the  military  regime  in  Argentina.  When 

questioned  on  this  position,  he  replied  that  he  had  made  a  mistake.  He  had  not  meant 

Argentina,  he  said,  but  Chile! 

Francois  Ducaud-Bourget  would  not  appear  to  be  quite  so  extreme;  and 

his  medals,  at  any  rate,  attest  to  patriotic  anti-German  activity 

during  the  war.  Nevertheless  he  has  expressed  a  high  regard  for 

Mussolini,  and  the  hope  that  France  would  "recover  its  sense  of  values 

under  the  guidance  of  a  new  Napoleon'  ."3 

Our  first  suspicion  was  that  Marcel  Lefebvre  and  Frani~ois 

Ducaud-Bourget  were  not,  in  fact,  affiliated  with  the  Prieure  de  Sion 

at  all,  but  that  someone  had  deliberately  attempted  to  embarrass  them 

by  aligning  them  with  the  very  forces  they  would,  in  theory,  most 

vigorously  oppose.  And  yet  according  to  the  statutes  we  had  obtained 


211 


from  the  French  police,  the  subtitle  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  was 

Chevalerie  d'lnstitutions  et  Regies  Catholiques;  d'Union 

Independante  et  Traditionaliste.  An  institution  with  such  a  name  might  very  well 

accommodate  individuals  like  Marcel  Lefebvre  and  Franpois  Ducaud  Bourget. 

There  seemed  to  us  a  second  possible  explanation  a  far-fetched 

explanation  admittedly,  but  one  that  would  at  least  account  for  the 

contradiction  confronting  us.  Perhaps  Marcel  Lefebvre  and  Franqois 

Ducaud-Bourget  were  not  what  they  appeared  to  be.  Perhaps  they  were  something  else. 

Perhaps,  in  actuality,  they  were  agents  provocateurs  whose  objective  was  systematically 

to  create  turmoil,  sow  dissent,  foment  an  incipient  schism  that  threatened  Pope  Paul's 

pontificate.  Such  tactics  would  be  in  keeping  with  the  secret  societies  described  by 

Charles  Nodier,  as  well  as  with  the  Protocols  of  the  Elders  of  Sion.  And  a  number  of 

recent  commentators  -journalists  as  well  as  ecclesiastical  authorities  have  declared 

Archbishop  Lefebvre  to  be  working  for,  or  manipulated  by,  someone  else." 

Far-fetched  though  our  hypothesis  might  be,  there  was  a  coherent  logic  underlying  it.  If 

Pope  Paul  were  regarded  as  'the  enemy',  and  one  wished  to  force  him  into  a  more  liberal 

position,  how  would  one  go  about  it?  Not  by  agitating  from  a  liberal  point  of  view.  That 

would  only  have  entrenched  the  pope  more  firmly  in  his  conservatism.  But  what  if  one 

publicly  adopted  a  position  even  more  rabidly  conservative  than  Paul's?  Would  this  not, 

despite  his  wishes  to  the  contrary,  force  him  into  an  increasingly  liberal  position?  And 

that,  certainly  is  what  Archbishop  Lefebvre  and  his  colleagues  accomplished  the 

unprecedented  feat  of  casting  the  pope  as  a  liberal. 

Whether  our  conclusions  were  valid  or  not,  it  seemed  clear  that 

Archbishop 

Lefebvre,  like  so  many  other  individuals  in  our  investigation,  was  privy  to  some 

momentous  and  explosive  secret.  In  1976,  for  example,  his  excommunication  seemed 

imminent.  The  press,  indeed,  was  expecting  it  any  day,  for  Pope  Paul,  confronted  by 

brazen  and  repeated  defiance,  seemed  to  have  no  alternative.  And  yet,  at  the  very  last 

minute,  the  pope  backed  down.  It  is  still  unclear  precisely  why  he  did  so:  but  the  following 

excerpt  from  the  Guardian,  dated  August  30th,  1976,  suggests  a  clue: 


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The  Archbishop's  team  of  priests  in  England  ..  .  believe  that  their 

leader  still  has  a  powerful  ecclesiastical  weapon  to  use  in  his  dispute 

with  the  Vatican.  No  one  will  give  any  hint  of  its  nature,  but  Father 

Peter 

Morgan,  the  group's  leader ..  .  describes  it  as  being  something 

"earth-shaking'. "5 

What  kind  of  "earth-shaking'  matter  or  'secret  weapon'  could  thus 

intimidate  the  Vatican?  What  kind  of  Damoclean  sword,  invisible  to  the 

world  at  large,  could  have  been  held  over  the  pontiff's  head?  Whatever 

it  was,  it  certainly  seems  to  have  proved  effective.  It  seems,  in 

fact,  to  have  rendered  the  archbishop  wholly  immune  to  punitive  action 

from  Rome.  As 

Jean  Delaude  wrote,  Marcel  Lefebvre  did  indeed  seem  to  'represent  a  power  capable  of 

confronting  the  Vatican'  head-on,  if  necessary. 

But  to  whom  did  he  or  will  he  allegedly  say:  "You  make  me  Pope  and  I  will  make  you 

King'? 

The  Convent  of  1981  and  Cocteau's  Statutes 

More  recently,  some  of  the  issues  surrounding  Francois  Ducaud-Bourget  seem  to  have 

been  clarified.  This  clarification  has  resulted  from  a  sudden  glare  of  publicity  which  the 

Prieure  de  Sion,  during  late  1980  and  early  1981,  has  received  in  France.  This  publicity 

has  made  it  something  of  a  household  name. 

In  August  1980  the  popular  magazine  Bonne  Soiree  a  kind  of  amalgam 

between  a  British  Sunday  supplement  and  the  American  TV  Guide  published 

a  two-part  feature  on  the  mystery  of  Rennes-leChateau  and  the  Prieure 

de 

Sion.  In  this  feature  both  Marcel  Lefebvre  and  Francois  Ducaud-Bourget 

are  explicitly  linked  with  Sion.  Both  are  said  to  have  paid  a  special 

visit  fairly  recently  to  one  of  Sion's  sacred  sites,  the  village  of 

Sainte-Colombe  in  Nevers,  where  the  Plantard  domain  of  Chateau  Barberie  was  situated 

before  its  destruction  by  Cardinal  Mazarin  in  1659. 

By  this  time  we  ourselves  had  established  both  telephone  and  postal 

contact  with  the  Abbe  DucaudBourget.  He  proved  courteous  enough.  But 

his  answers  to  most  of  our  questions  were  vague,  if  not  evasive;  and, 


213 


not  surprisingly,  he  disavowed  all  affiliation  with  the  Prieure  de 

Sion.  This  disavowal  was  reiterated  in  a  letter  which,  shortly  thereafter,  he  addressed  to 
Bonne  Soiree. 

On  January  22nd,  1 981 ,  a  short  article  appeared  in  the  French  press, "s  of  which  it  is  worth 
quoting  the  greater  part: 

A  veritable  secret  society  of  121  dignitaries,  the  Prieure  de  Sion, 
founded  by  Godfroi  de  Bouillon  in  Jerusalem  in  1099,  has  numbered  among 
its  Grand 

Masters  Leonardo  da  Vinci,  Victor  Hugo  and  Jean  Cocteau.  This  Order  convened  its 
Convent  at  Blois  on  1 7  January,  1 981  (the  previous  Convent  dating  from  5  June  1 956,  in 
Paris). 

As  a  result  of  this  recent  Convent  at  Blois,  Pierre  Plantard  de 
Saint-Clair  was  elected  Grand  Master  of  the  Order  by  83  out  of  92  votes  on  the  third 
ballot. 

This  choice  of  Grand  Master  marks  a  decisive  step  in  the  evolution  of 
the 

Order's  conception  and  spirit  in  relation  to  the  world;  for  the  121 
dignitaries  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  are  all  eminences  grises  of  high 
finance  and  of  international  political  or  philosophical  societies; 
and 

Pierre  Plantard  is  the  direct  descendant,  through  Dagobert  II,  of  the 
Merovingian  kings.  His  descent  has  been  proved  legally  by  the  parchments  of  Queen 
Blanche  of  Castile,  discovered  by  the  Abbe  Sauniere  in  his  church  at  Rennes-leChateau 
(Rude)  in  1891. 

These  documents  were  sold  by  the  priest's  niece  in  1965  to  Captain 
Roland 

Stanmore  and  Sir  Thomas  Frazer,  and  were  deposited  in  a  safe-deposit  box  of  Lloyds 
Bank  Europe  Limited  of  London." 

Shortly  before  this  item  appeared  in  the  press,  we  had  written  to  Philippe  de  Cherisey, 
with  whom  we  had  already  established  contact  and  whose  name  figured  as  frequently  as 
Pierre  Plantard's  as  a  spokesman  for  the  Prieure  de  Sion.  In  reply  to  one  of  the  questions 
we  asked  him,  M.  de  Cherisey  declared  that  Franpois  DucaudBourget  had  not  been 
elected  Grand  Master  by  a  proper  quorum.  Moreover,  he  added,  the  Abbe  Ducaud- 
Bourget had  publicly  repudiated  his  affiliation  with  the  Order. 
This  latter  assertion  seemed  unclear.  It  made  more  sense,  however,  in 
the  context  of  something  M.  de 


214 


Cherisey  enclosed  in  his  letter.  Some  time  before,  we  had  obtained, 

from  the  Sub  Prefecture  of  Saint-Julien,  the  statutes  of  the  Prieure  de 

Sion.  A  copy  of  these  same  statutes  had  been  published  in  1973  by  a 

French  magazine."  However,  we  had  been  told  in 

Paris  by  jean-Luc  Chaumeil  that  these  statutes  were  fraudulent.  In  his 

letter  to  us  M.  de  Cherisey  enclosed  a  copy  of  what  were  said  to  be 

the 

Prieure  de  Sion's  true  statutes  translated  from  the  Latin.  These  statutes  bore  the 

signature  of  jean  Cocteau;  and  unless  it  had  been  executed  by  an  extremely  skilful  forger, 

the  signature  was  authentic.  We  certainly  could  not  distinguish  it  from  other  specimens  of 

Cocteau's  signature.  And  on  this  basis,  we  are  inclined  to  accept  the  statutes  to  which  the 

signature  is  appended  as  genuine. "9  They  are  set  out  below: 

ARTICLE  ONE  There  is  formed,  between  the  undersigned  to  this  present  constitution  and 

those  who  shall  subsequently  join  and  fulfill  the  following  conditions,  an  initiatory  order  of 

chivalry,  whose  usages  and  customs  rest  upon  the  foundation  made  by  Godfroi  VI,  called 

the  Pious,  Due  de  Bouillon,  at  Jerusalem  in  1099  and  recognised  in  1 100. 

ARTICLE  Two  The  Order  is  called  "Sionis  Prioratus'  or  "Prieure  de  Sion'. 

ARTICLE  THREE  The  Prieure  de  Sion  has  as  its  objectives  the  perpetuation  of  the 

traditionalist  order  of  chivalry,  its  initiatory  teaching  and  the  creation  between  members  of 

mutual  assistance,  as  much  moral  as  material,  in  all  circumstances. 

ARTICLE  FOUR  The  duration  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  is  unlimited. 

ARTICLE  FIVE  The  Prieure  de  Sion  adopts,  as  its  representative  office,  the  domicile  of 

the  Secretary  General  named  by  the  Convent.  The  Prieure  de  Sion  is  not  a  secret 

society.  All  its  decrees,  as  well  as  its  records  and  appointments,  are  available  to  the 

public  in  Latin  text. 

ARTICLE  SIX  The  Prieure  de  Sion  comprises  121  members.  Within  these 

limits,  it  is  open  to  all  adult  persons  who  recognise  its  aims  and 


215 


accept  the  obligations  specified  in  this  present  constitution.  Members  are  admitted  without 

regard  to  sex,  race  or  philosophical,  religious  or  political  ideas. 

ARTICLE  SEVEN  Nevertheless,  in  the  event  that  a  member  should  designate  in  writing 

one  of  his  descendants  to  succeed  him,  the  Convent  shall  accede  to  this  request  and 

may,  if  necessary  in  the  case  of  minority,  undertake  the  education  of  the  above 

designated. 

ARTICLE  EIGHT  A  future  member  must  provide,  for  his  induction  to  the  first  grade,  a 

white  robe  with  cord,  at  his  own  expense.  From  the  time  of  his  admission  to  the  first 

grade,  the  member  holds  the  right  to  vote.  On  admission,  the  new  member  must  swear  to 

serve  the  Order  in  all  circumstances,  as  well  as  to  work  for  PEACE  and  the  respect  of 

human  life. 

ARTICLE  NINE  On  his  admission,  the  member  must  pay  a  token  fee,  the  amount  being 

discretionary.  Each  year,  he  must  forward  to  the  Secretariat  General  a  voluntary 

contribution  to  the  Order  of  a  sum  to  be  decided  by  himself. 

ARTICLE  TEN  On  admission,  the  member  must  provide  a  birth  certificate  and  a  specimen 

of  his  signature. 

ARTICLE  ELEVEN  A  member  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  against  whom  a  sentence  has  been 

pronounced  by  a  tribunal  for  a  common-law  offence  may  be  suspended  from  his  duties 

and  titles,  as  well  as  his  membership. 

ARTICLE  TWELVE  The  general  assembly  of  members  is  designated  the  Convent. 

No  deliberation  of  Convent  shall  be  deemed  valid  if  the  number  of  members  present  is 

less  than  eighty-one.  The  vote  is  secret  and  is  cast  by  means  of  white  and  black  balls.  To 

be  adopted,  all  motions  must  receive  eighty-one  white  balls.  All  motions  not  receiving 

sixty-one  white  balls  in  a  vote  may  not  be  re-submitted. 

ARTICLE  THIRTEEN  The  Convent  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  alone  decides,  on  a  majority  of 

81  votes  out  of  121  members,  all  changes  to  the  constitution  and  the  internal  regulation  of 

ceremonial. 


216 


ARTICLE  FOURTEEN  All  admissions  shall  be  decided  by  the  "Council  of 

the  thirteen  Rose-Croix'.  Titles  and  duties  shall  be  conferred  by  the 

Grand 

Master  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion.  Members  are  admitted  to  their  office  for  life.  Their  titles 

revert  by  right  to  one  of  their  children  chosen  by  themselves  without  consideration  of  sex. 

The  child  thus  designated  may  make  an  act  of  renunciation  of  his  rights,  but  he  cannot 

make  this  act  in  favour  of  a  brother,  sister,  relative  or  any  other  person.  He  may  not  be 

readmitted  to  the  Prieure  de  Sion. 

ARTICLE  FIFTEEN  Within  twenty-seven  full  days,  two  members  shall  be  required  to 

contact  a  future  member  to  obtain  his  assent  or  his  renunciation.  In  default  of  a  deed  of 


217 


acceptance  after  a  period  of  reflection  of  eighty-one  full  days,  renunciation  shall  be  legally 


218 


219 


ARTICLE  SIXTEEN  By  virtue  of  hereditary  right  confirmed  by  the  preceding  articles,  the 

duties  and  titles  of  Grand  Master  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  shall  be  transmitted  to  his 

successor  according  to  the  same  prerogatives.  In  the  case  of  a  vacancy  in  the  office  of 

Grand  Master,  and  the  absence  of  a  direct  successor,  the  Convent  must  proceed  to  an 

election  within  eighty  one  days. 

ARTICLE  SEVENTEEN  All  decrees  must  be  voted  by  Convent  and  receive 

validation  by  the  Seal  of  the  Grand  Master.  The  Secretary-General  is 

named  by  Convent  for  three  years,  renewable  by  tacit  consent.  The 

Secretary-General  must  be  of  the  grade  of  Commander  to  undertake  his  duties. 

The  functions  and  duties  are  unpaid. 

ARTICLE  EIGHTEEN  The  hierarchy  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  is  composed  of  five  grades: 

1st  Nautonnier  number:1  Arche  of  the  2nd  Croise  number:313  Rose-Croix 

3rd  Commandeur  number:9  4th  Chevalier  number:  27The  nine  5th  Ecuyer 


220 


number:81commanderies  total  number:  121  of  the  Temple  ARTICLE  NINETEEN 

There  are  243  Free  Brothers,  called  Preux  or,  since  the  year  1681,  Enfants  de  Saint 

Vincent  who  participate  neither  in  the  vote  nor  in  Convents,  but  to  whom  the  Prieure  de 

Sion  accordg  certain  rights  and  privileges  in  conformity  witht  the  decree  of  January  17th, 

1681. 

ARTICLE  TWENTY  The  funds  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion  are  composed  of  gifts  and  fees  of 

members.  A  reserve,  called  the  'patrimony  of  the  Order',  is  settled  upon  the  Council  of  the 

thirteen  Rose-Croix.  This  treasure  may  only  be  used  in  case  of  absolute  necessity  and 

grave  danger  to  the  Prieure  and  its  members. 

ARTICLE  TWENTY-ONE  The  Convent  is  convoked  by  the  Secretary-General  when  the 

Council  of  the  Rose-Croix  deems  it  useful. 

ARTICLE  TWENTY-TWO  Disavowal  of  membership  in  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  manifested 

publicly  and  in  writing,  without  cause  or  personal  danger,  shall  incur  exclusion  of  the 

member,  which  shall  be  pronounced  by  the  Convent. 

Text  of  the  constitution  in  XXII  articles,  conforming  to  the  original  and  to  the  modifications 

of  the  Convent  of  June  5th ,  1 956. 

Signature  of  the  Grand  Master 

JEAN  COCTEAU 

In  certain  details,  these  statutes  are  at  odds  both  with  the  statutes  we  received  from  the 

French  police  and  with  the  information  relating  to  Sion  in  the  "Prieure  documents'.  The 

latter  shows  a  total  membership  of  1 ,093,  the  former  of  9,841 .  According  to  the  articles 

quoted  above,  Sion's  total  membership,  including  the  243  "Children  of  Saint  Vincent',  is 

only  364.  The  "Prieure  documents',  moreover,  establish  a  hierarchy  of  seven  grades.  In 

the  statutes  we  received  from  the  French  police,  this  hierarchy  has  been  expanded  to 

nine.  According  to  the  articles  quoted  above,  there  are  only  five  grades  in  the  hierarchy. 

And  the  specific  appellations  of  these  grades  differ  from  those  in  the  two  previous  sources 

as  well. 


221 


These  contradictions  might  well  be  evidence  of  some  sort  of  schism,  or 

incipient  schism,  within  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  dating  from  around  1956 

when  the  "Prieure  documents'  first  began  to  appear  in  the 

Bibliotheque  Nationale.  And  indeed,  Philippe  de  Cherisey  alludes  to 

just  such  a  schism  in  a  recent  article. z  It  occurred  between  1956  and 

1958,  he  says,  and  threatened  to  assume  the  proportions  of  the  rift 

between  Sion  and  the  Order  of  the  Temple  in  1 188  the  rift  marked  by  the 

"cutting  of  the  elm'.  According  to  M.  de  Cherisey,  the  schism  was 

averted  by  the  diplomatic  skill  of  M.  Plantard,  who  brought  the 

potential  defectors  back  into  the  fold.  In  any  case,  and  whatever  the 

internal  politics  of  the  Prieure  de 

Sion,  the  Order,  as  of  the  January  1981  Convent,  would  seem  to  constitute  a  unified  and 

coherent  whole. 

If  FranQois  Ducaud-Bourgetwas  the  Prieure  de  Sion's  Grand  Master,  it  would  appear 

clear  that  he  is  not  so  at  present.  M.  de  Cherisey  declared  that  he  had  not  been  elected 

by  the  requisite  quorum.  This  may  mean  that  he  was  elected  by  the  incipient  schismatics. 

It  is  uncertain  whether  he  is  subject  to  or  in  violation  of  Article  Twenty  Two  of  the  statutes. 

We  may  assume  that  his  affiliation  with  Sion  whatever  it  may  have  been  in  the  past  no 

longer  exists.  ' 

The  statutes  quoted  might  seem  to  clarify  the  status  of  Francois 

Ducaud-Bourget.  They  make  clear,  anyway,  the  principle  of  selection 

governing  the  Prieure  de  Sion's  Grand  Masters.  It  is  now 

comprehensible  why  there  should  have  been  Grand  Masters  aged  five  or 

eight.  It  is  also  comprehensible  why  the  Grand  Mastership  should  move, 

as  it  does,  in  and  out  of  a  particular  bloodline  and  network  of 

interlinked  genealogies.  In  principle,  the  title  would  seem  to  be 

hereditary,  transmitted  down  the  centuries  through  an  intertwined 

cluster  of  families  all  claiming 

Merovingian  descent.  When  there  was  no  eligible  claimant,  however,  or 

when  the  designated  claimant  declined  the  status  offered  him,  the 

Grand 

Mastership,  presumably  in  accordance  with  the  procedures  outlined  in 

the  statutes,  was  conferred  on  a  chosen  outsider.  It  would  be  on  this 

basis  that  individuals  like  Leonardo,  Newton,  Nodier  and  Cocteau  found 


222 


their  way  on  to  the  list.  M.  Plantard  de  Saint-Clair 

Among  the  names  that  figured  most  prominently  and  recurrently  in  the 

various 

"Prieure  documents'  was  that  of  the  Plantard  family.  And  among  the 

numerous  individuals  associated  with  the  mystery  of  Sauniere  and 

Rennes-leChateau,  the  most  authoritative  seemed  to  be  Pierre  Plantard 

de  Saint-Clair  .z' 

According  to  the  genealogies  in  the  "Prieure  documents',  M.  Plantard  is  a  lineal 

descendant  of  King  Dagobert  II  and  the  Merovingian  dynasty. 

According  to  the  same  genealogies,  he  is  also  a  lineal  descendant  of 

the  owners  of 

Chateau  Barberie,  the  property  destroyed  by  Cardinal  Mazarin  in  1659. 

Throughout  the  course  of  the  inquiry  we  had  repeatedly  encountered  M. 

Plantard's  name.  Indeed,  so  far  as  release  of  information  during  the 

last  twenty-five  years  or  so  was  concerned,  all  trails  seemed  to  lead 

ultimately  to  him.  In  1960,  for  example,  he  was  interviewed  by  Gerard 

de  Sede  and  spoke  of  an  "international  secret'  concealed  at  Gisors.zz 

During  the  subsequent  decade  he  seems  to  have  been  a  major  source  of 

information  for 

M.  de  Sede's  books  on  both  Gisors  and  Rennes-leChateau  .z3  According  to 

recent  disclosures,  M.  Plantard's  grandfather  was  a  personal 

acquaintance  of  Berenger  Sauniere.  And  M.  Plantard  himself  proved  to 

own  a  number  of  tracts  of  land  in  the  vicinity  of  Rennes-leChateau  and 

Rennes-les-Bains,  including  the  mountain  of  Blanchefort.  When  we 

interviewed  the  town  antiquarian  at  Stenay,  in  the  Arennes,  we  were 

told  that  the  site  of  the 

Old  Church  of  Saint  Dagobert  was  also  owned  by  M.  Plantard.  And  according  to  the 

statutes  we  obtained  from  the  French  police,  M.  Plantard  was  listed  as  Secretary  General 

of  the  Prieure  de  Sion. 

In  1973  a  French  magazine  published  what  seems  to  have  been  the  transcript  of  a 

telephone  interview  with  M.  Plantard.  Not  surprisingly  he  did  not  give  very  much  away. 

As  might  be  expected,  his  statements  were  allusive,  cryptic  and  provocative  raising,  in 

fact,  more  questions  than  they  answered. 

Thus,  for  example,  when  speaking  of  the  Merovingian  bloodline  and  its 

royal  claims,  he  declared,  "You  must  explore  the  origins  of  certain 

great  French  families,  and  you  will  then  comprehend  how  a  personage 

named  Henri  de 


223 


Montpezat  could  one  day  become  king.  'z4  And  when  asked  the 

objectives  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  M.  Plantard  replied  in  a  manner  whose  evasiveness  was 

predictable,  "I  cannot  tell  you  that.  The  society  to  which  I  am  attached  is  extremely 

ancient.  I  merely  succeed  others,  a  point  in  a  sequence.  We  are  guardians  of  certain 

things. 

And  without  publicity.  125 

The  same  French  magazine  also  published  a  character  sketch  of  M. 

Plantard,  written  by  his  first  wife,  Anne  Lea  Hisler,  who  died  in  1971 . 

If  the  magazine  is  to  be  believed,  this  sketch  first  appeared  in 

Circuit,  the 

Prieure  de  Sion's  own  internal  publication  for  which  M.  Plantard  is  said  to  have  written 

regularly  under  the  pseudonym  of  "Chyren': 

Let  us  not  forget  that  this  psychologist  was  the  friend  of  personages 

as  diverse  as  Comte  Israel  Monti,  one  of  the  brothers  of  the  Holy  Vehm, 

Gabriel 

Trarieux  d'Egmont,  one  of  the  thirteen  members  of  the  Rose-Croix, 

Paul 

Lecour,  the  philosopher  on  Atlantis,  the  Abbe  Hoffet  of  the  Service 

of 

Documentation  of  the  Vatican,  Th.  Moreaux,  the  director  of  the  Conservatory  at  Bourges, 

etc.  Let  us  remember  that  during  the  Occupation,  he  was  arrested,  suffered  torture  by  the 

Gestapo  and  was  interned  as  a  political  prisoner  for  long  months.  In  his  capacity  of  doctor 

of  arcane  sciences,  he  learned  to  appreciate  the  value  of  secret  information,  which  no 

doubt  led  to  his  receiving  the  title  of  honorary  member  in  several  hermetic  societies. 

All  this  has  gone  to  form  a  singular  personage,  a  mystic  of  peace,  an  apostle  of  liberty,  an 

ascetic  whose  ideal  is  to  serve  the  well-being  of  humanity.  Is  it  astonishing  therefore  that 

he  should  become  one  of  the  eminences  grises  from  whom  the  great  of  this  world  seek 

counsel? 

Invited  in  1947  by  the  Federal  Government  of  Switzerland,  he  resided 

for  several  years  there,  near  Lake  Uman,  where  numerous  charges  de 

missions  and  delegates  from  the  entire  world  are  gathered  .26 

Madame  Hisler  undoubtedly  intended  this  to  be  a  glowing  portrait.  What  emerges, 

however,  is  the  sense  of  an  individual  more  singular  than  anything  else.  In  some  places 

Madame  Hisler's  language  becomes  both  vague  and  hyperbolic.  Moreover,  the  diverse 

people  listed  as  M. 

Plantard's  distinguished  acquaintances  are,  to  say  the  least,  a  fairly 


224 


odd  lot.  On  the  other  hand,  M.  Plantard's  contretemps  with  the 

Gestapo  would  seem  to  point  to  some  laudable  activity  during  the 

Occupation.  And  our  own  researches  eventually  yielded  documentary 

evidence.  As  early  as  1941  Pierre 

Plantard  had  begun  editing  the  resistance  journal  Vaincre,  published  in 

a  suburb  of  Paris.  He  was  imprisoned  by  the  Gestapo  for  more  than  a 

year,  from  October  1943  until  the  end  of  1944.2' 

M.  Plantard's  friends  and  associates  proved  to  include  individuals 

rather  better  known  than  those  listed  by  Madame  Hisler.  They  included 

Andre 

Malraux  and  Charles  de  Gaulle.  Indeed  M.  Plantard's  connections 

apparently  extended  well  into  the  corridors  of  power.  In  1958,  for 

example,  Algeria  rose  in  revolt  and  General  de  Gaulle  sought  to  be 

returned  to  the 

Presidency  of  France.  He  seems  to  have  turned  specifically  to  M. 

Plantard  for  aid.  M.  Plantard,  together  with  Andre  Malraux  and  others, 

seems  to  have  responded  by  mobil  ising  the  socalled  "Committees  of 

Public  Safety'  which  played  a  critical  role  in  returning  de  Gaulle  to 

the  Hysee  Palace.  In  a  letter  dated  July  29th,  1958,  de  Gaulle 

personally  thanked  M.  Plantard  for  his  services.  In  a  second  letter, 

dated  five  days  later,  the  General  requested  of  M.  Pllntard  that  the 

committees,  having  attained  their  objective,  be  disbanded.  By  an 

official  communique  in  the  press  and  on  the  radio,  M.  Plantard 

dissolved  the  committees  .21 1 

Needless  to  say,  we  became  increasingly  anxious,  as  our  research  progressed,  to  make 

M.  Plantard's  acquaintance.  There  did  not  at  first  seem  much  likelihood  of  our  doing  so, 

however.  M.  Plantard  appeared  to  be  untraceable,  and  there  seemed  no  way  whereby 

we,  as  private  individuals,  could  possibly  locate  him.  Then,  during  the  early  spring  of 

1979,  we  embarked  on  another  film  about  Rennes-leChateau  for  the  BBC,  who  placed 

their  resources  at  our  disposal.  It  was  under  the  auspices  of  the  BBC  that  we  at  last 

managed  to  establish  contact  with  M.  Plantard  and  the  Prieure  de  Sion. 

Initial  inquiries  were  undertaken  by  an  Englishwoman,  a  journalist 

living  in  Paris,  who  had  worked  on  various  projects  for  the  BBC  and  had 

acquired  an  imposing  network  of  connections  throughout  France,  through 


225 


which  she  attempted  to  find  the  Prieure  de  Sion.  At  first,  pursuing 

her  quest  through  Masonic  lodges  and  the  Parisian  esoteric  "sub-culture',  she 

encountered  a  predictable  smoke-screen  of  mystification  and  contradiction. 

One  journalist  warned  her,  for  example,  that  anyone  probing  Sion  too 

closely  sooner  or  later  got  killed.  Another  journalist  told  her  that 

Sion  had  indeed  existed  during  the  Middle  Ages,  but  no  longer  did 

today.  An  official  of 

Grande  Loge  Alpina,  on  the  other  hand,  reported  that  Sion  did  exist  today  but  was  a 

modern  organisation  it  had  never,  he  said,  existed  in  the  past. 

Threading  her  way  through  this  welter  of  confusion,  our  researcher  at  last  established 

contact  with  jean-Luc  Chaumeil  who  had  interviewed  M.  Plantard  for  a  magazine  and 

written  extensively  on  Sauniere,  Rennes-le  Chateau  and  the  Prieure  de  Sion.  He  was  not 

himself  a  member  of  Sion,  M.  Chaumeil  said,  but  he  could  contact  M.  Plantard  and 

possibly  arrange  a  meeting  with  us.  In  the  meantime,  he  provided  our  researcher  with 

additional  fragments  of  information. 

According  to  M.  Chaumeil  the  Prieure  de  Sion  was  not,  strictly  speaking,  a  "secret 

society'.  It  merely  wished  to  be  discreet  about  its  existence,  its  activities  and  its 

membership.  The  entry  in  the  Journal  Officiel,  M.  Chaumeil  declared,  was  spurious, 

placed  there  by  certain  "defecting  members'  of  the  Order.  According  to  M.  Chaumeil,  the 

statutes  registered  with  the  police  were  also  spurious,  issuing  from  the  same  'defecting 

members'. 

M.  Chaumeil  confirmed  our  suspicions  that  Sion  entertained  ambitious  political  plans  for 

the  near  future.  Within  a  few  years,  he  asserted,  there  would  be  a  dramatic  change  in  the 

French  Government  a  change  that  would  pave  the  way  for  a  popular  monarchy  with  a 

Merovingian  ruler  on  the  throne. 

And  Sion,  he  asserted  further,  would  be  behind  this  change  as  it  had  been  behind 

numerous  other  important  changes  for  centuries.  According  to  M.  Chaumeil,  Sion  was 

anti-materialistic  and  intent  on  presiding  over  a  restoration  of  "true  values'  values  it  would 

appear,  of  a  spiritual,  perhaps  esoteric  character.  These  values,  M.  Chaumeil  explained, 

were  ultimately  pre-Christian  despite  Sion's  ostensibly  Christian  orientation,  despite  the 

Catholic  emphasis  in  the  statutes. 


226 


M.  Chaumeil  also  reiterated  that  Sion's  Grand  Master  at  that  time  was 

Franpois  Ducaud-Bourget.  When  asked  how  the  latter's 

Catholic  traditionalism  could  be  reconciled  with  pre-Christian  values,  M.  Chaumeil  replied 

cryptically  that  we  would  have  to  ask  the  Abbe  Ducaud  Bourget  himself. 

M.  Chaumeil  emphasised  the  antiquity  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  as  well  as  the  breadth  of  its 

membership.  It  included,  he  said,  members  from  all  spheres  of  life.  Its  objectives,  he 

added,  were  not  exclusively  confined  to  restoring  the  Merovingian  bloodline.  And  at  this 

point,  M. 

Chaumeil  made  a  very  curious  statement  to  our  researcher.  Not  all 

members  of  the  Prieure  de 

Sion,  he  said,  were  Jewish.  The  implication  of  this  apparent  non 

sequitur  is  obvious  that  some  members  of  the  Order,  if  not  indeed  many, 

are 

Jewish.  And  again  we  were  confronted  with  a  baffling  contradiction.  Even  if  the  statutes 

were  spurious,  how  could  we  reconcile  an  Order  with  Jewish  membership  and  a  Grand 

Master  who  embraced  extreme  Catholic  traditionalism  and  whose  close  friends  included 

Marcel  Lefebvre,  a  man  known  for  statements  verging  on  antiSemitism? 

M.  Chaumeil  made  other  perplexing  statements  as  well.  He  spoke,  for 

Merovingian  bloodline  and  whose  'sacred  mission  was  therefore  obvious'. 

This  assertion  is  all  the  more  baffling  in  that  there  is  no  known 

Prince  of 

Lorraine  today,  not  even  a  titular  one.  Was  M.  Chaumeil  implying  that  such  a  Prince  did 

actually  exist,  living  perhaps  incognito?  Or  did  he  mean  'prince'  in  the  broader  sense  of 

'scion'?  In  that  case,  the  present  prince  (as  opposed  to  Prince)  of  Lorraine  is  Dr.  Otto  von 

Habsburg,  who  is  titular  duke  of  Lorraine. 

On  the  whole,  M.  Chaumeil's  answers  were  less  answers  than  they  were  bases  for  further 

questions  and  our  researcher,  in  the  short  time  of  preparation  allowed  her,  did  not  know 

precisely  which  questions  to  ask. 

She  made  considerable  headway,  however,  by  stressing  the  BBC's  interest 

in  the  matter;  for  the  BBC,  on  the  continent,  enjoys  considerably  more 

prestige  than  it  does  in  Britain  and  is  still  a  name  to  be  conjured 

with.  In  consequence  the  prospect  of  BBC  involvement  was  not  to  be 

taken  lightly.  "Propaganda'  is  too  strong  a  word,  but  a  BBC  film  which 


227 


emphasised  and  authenticated  certain  facts  would  certainly  have  been 

attractive  a  powerful  means  of  gaining  credence  and  creating  a 

psychological  climate  or  atmosphere,  especially  in  the 

English-speaking  world.  If  the  Merovingians  and  the  Prieure  de  Sion  became  accepted  as 

'historical  givens'  or  generally  acknowledged  facts  like,  say,  the  Battle  of  Hastings  or  the 

murder  of  Thomas  a  Becket  this  would  patently  have  been  to  Sion's  advantage.  It  was 

undoubtedly  such  considerations  that  prompted  M.  Chaumeil  to  telephone  M.  Plantard. 

Eventually,  in  March  1979,  with  our  BBC  producer,  Roy  Davies,  and  his  researcher 

functioning  as  liaison,  a  meeting  was  arranged  between  M.  Plantard  and  ourselves. 

When  it  occurred,  it  had  something  of  the  character  of  a  meeting  between  Mafia 

godfathers.  It  was  held  on  'neutral  ground'  in  a  Paris  cinema  rented  by  the  BBC  for  the 

occasion,  and  all  parties  were  accompanied  by  an  entourage. 

M.  Plantard  proved  to  be  a  dignified,  courteous  man  of  discreetly  aristocratic  bearing, 

unostentatious  in  appearance,  with  a  gracious,  volatile  but  soft-spoken  manner.  He 

displayed  enormous  erudition  and  impressive  nimbleness  of  mind  a  gift  for  dry,  witty, 

mischievous  but  not  in  any  way  barbed  repartee.  There  was  frequently  a  gently  amused, 

indulgent  twinkle  in  his  eyes,  an  almost  avuncular  quality.  For  all  his  modest,  unassertive 

manner,  he  exercised  an  imposing  authority  over  his  companions. 

And  there  was  a  marked  quality  of  asceticism  and  austerity  about  him.  He  did  not  flaunt 

any  wealth.  His  apparel  was  conservative,  tasteful,  insouciantly  informal,  but  neither 

ostentatiously  elegant  nor  manifestly  expensive.  As  far  as  we  could  gather,  he  did  not 

even  drive  a  car. 

At  our  first,  and  two  subsequent  meetings  with  him,  M.  Plantard  made  it 

clear  to  us  that  he  would  say  nothing  whatever  about  the  Prieure  de 

Sion's  activities  or  objectives  at  the  present  time.  On  the  other  hand 

he  offered  to  answer  any  questions  we  might  have  about  the  Order's  past 

history.  And  although  he  refused  to  discuss  the  future  in  any  public 

statements  on  film,  for  example  -he  did  vouchsafe  us  a  few  hints  in 

conversation.  He  declared,  for  example,  that  the  Prieure  de  Sion  did 

in  fact  hold  the  lost  treasure  of  the  Temple  of  Jerusalem  the  booty 

plundered  by  Titus's  Roman  legions  in  A.D.  70.  These  items  he  stated, 


228 


would  be'  returned  to  Israel  when  the  time  is  right'.  But  whatever 

the  historical,  archaeological  or  even  political  significance  of  this  treasure,  M.  Plantard 

dismissed  it  as  incidental.  The  true  treasure,  he  insisted,  was  'spiritual'.  And  he  implied 

that  this  'spiritual  treasure'  consisted,  at  least  in  part,  of  a  secret.  In  some  unspecified  way 

the  secret  in  question  would  facilitate  a  major  social  change.  M.  Plantard  echoed  M. 

Chaumeil  in  stating  that,  in  the  near  future,  there  would  be  a  dramatic  upheaval  in  France 

not  a  revolution,  but  a  radical  change  in  French  institutions  which  would  pave  the  way  for 

the  reinstatement  of  a  monarchy.  This  assertion  was  not  made  with  any  prophetic 

histrionics.  On  the  contrary,  M.  Plantard  simply  assured  us  of  it,  very  quietly,  very  matter- 

of-factly  and  very  definitively. 

In  M.  Plantard's  discourse  there  were  certain  curious  inconsistencies. 

At  times,  for  instance,  he  seemed  to  be  speaking  on  behalf  of  the 

Prieure  de 

Sion  he  would  say  "we'  and  thereby  indicate  the  Order.  At  other  times,  he  would  seem  to 

dissociate  himself  from  the  Order  would  speak  of  himself,  alone,  as  a  Merovingian 

claimant,  a  rightful  king,  and  Sion  as  his  allies  or  supporters.  We  seemed  to  be  hearing 

two  quite  distinct  voices  which  were  not  always  compatible.  One  was  the  voice  of  Sion's 

Secretary-General. 

The  other  was  the  voice  of  an  incognito  king  who  "rules  but  does  not  govern'  and  who 

regarded  Sion  as  one  might  a  sort  of  privy  council.  This  dichotomy  between  the  two 

voices  was  never  satisfactorily  resolved,  and  M.  Plantard  could  not  be  prevailed  upon  to 

clarify  it. 

After  three  meetings  with  M.  Plantard  and  his  associates,  we  were  not 

significantly  wiser  than  we  had  been  before.  Apart  from  the  Committees 

of 

Public  Safety  and  the  letters  from  Charles  de  Gaulle,  we  received  no 

indication  of  Sion's  political  influence  or  power,  or  that  the  men  we 

had  met  were  in  any  position  to  transform  the  government  and 

institutions  of 

France.  And  we  received  no  indication  of  why  the  Merovingian 

bloodline 

Should  be  taken  any  more  seriously  than  the  various  attempts  to  restore 

any  other  royal  dynasty.  There  are  several  Stuart  claimants  to  the 

British  throne,  for  example  and  their  claims,  at  least  so  far  as  modern 

historians  are  concerned,  rest  on  a  more  solid  basis  than  that  of  the 

Merovingians.  For  that  matter,  there  are  numerous  other  claimants  to 


229 


vacant  crowns  and  thrones  throughout  Europe;  and  there  are  surviving 

members  of  the  Bourbon,  Habsburg,  Hohenzollern  and  Romanov  dynasties. 

Why  should  they  be  accorded  any  less  credibility  than  the  Merovingians? 

In  terms  of  "absolute  legitimacy',  and  from  a  purely  technical  point  of 

view,  the 

Merovingian  claim  might  indeed  take  precedence.  But  the  matter  would  still  appear  to  be 

academic  in  the  modern  world  as  academic,  say,  as  a  contemporary  Irishman  proving 

descent  from  the  High  Kings  of  Tara. 

Again  we  considered  dismissing  the  Prieur6  de  Sion  as  a  minor  'lunatic 

fringe'  sect,  if  not  an  outright  hoax.  And  yet  all  our  own  research 

had  indicated  that  the  Order,  in  the  past,  had  had  real  power  and  been 

involved  in  matters  of  high-level  international  import.  Even  today 

there  was  clearly  more  to  it  than  met  the  eye.  There  was  nothing 

mercenary  about  it,  for  example,  or  exploitative  in  any  way.  Had  M 

Plantard  so  desired,  he  could  have  turned  the  Prieure  de  Sion  into  an 

extremely  lucrative  affair  like  many  other  fashionable  "new  age'  cults, 

sects  and  institutions.  Yet  most  of  the  seminal  "Prieure  documents' 

remained  confined  to  private  printings.  And 

Sion  itself  did  not  solicit  recruits  not  even  in  the  way  that  a  Masonic  lodge  might.  Its 

membership,  as  far  as  we  could  determine,  remained  rigorously  fixed  at  a  precise  number, 

and  new  members  were  admitted  only  as  vacancies  occurred.  Such  'exclusiveness' 

attested,  among  other  things,  to  an  extraordinary  self-confidence,  a  certainty  that  it  simply 

did  not  need  to  enrol  swarms  of  novices  for  financial  gain  or  any  other  reason.  In  other 

words,  it  already  "had  something  going  for  it'  something  that  seems  to  have  enlisted  the 

allegiance  of  men  like  Malraux  and  de  Gaulle.  But  could  we  seriously  believe  that  men 

like  Malraux  and  de  Gaulle  were  intent  on  restoring  the  Merovingian  bloodline? 

The  Politics  of  the  Prieure  de  Sion 

In  1973  a  book  was  published  entitled  Les  Dessous  dune  ambition 

politique  ("The  Undercurrents  of  a  Political  Ambition').  This  book, 

written  by  a  Swiss  journalist  named  Mathieu  Paoli,  recounts  the 


230 


author's  exhaustive  attempts  to  investigate  the  Prieure  de  Sion.  Like 

us,  M.  Paoli  eventually  established  contact  with  a  representative  of  the  Order  whom  he 

does  not  identify  by  name.  But  M.  Paoli  did  not  have  the  prestige  of  the  BBC  behind  him, 

and  the  representative  he  met  if  we  can  gauge  by  his  account  would  seem  to  have  been 

of  lesser  status  than  M.  Plantard.  Nor  was  this  representative  as  communicative  as  M. 

Plantard  was  with  us.  At  the  same  time,  M.  Paoli,  being  based  on  the 

continent  and  enjoying  a  greater  mobility  than  we  do,  was  able  to 

pursue  certain  leads  and  undertake  "on  the  spot'  research  in  a  way  that 

we  could  not.  As  a  result  his  book  was  extremely  valuable  and  contains 

much  new  information  so  much,  in  fact,  that  it  appeared  to  warrant  a 

sequel,  and  we  wondered  why  M.  Paoli  had  not  written  one.  When  we 

inquired  about  him,  we  were  told  that  in  1977  or  1978  he  had  been  shot 

as  a  spy  by  the 

Israeli  government  for  attempting  to  sell  certain  secrets  to  the  Arabs. 

29 

M.  Paoli's  approach,  as  he  describes  it  in  his  book,  was  in  many 

respects  similar  to  our  own.  He  too  contacted  the  daughter  of  Leo 

Schidlof  in 

London;  and  he  too  was  told  by  Miss  Schidlof  that  her  father,  to  her 

knowledge,  had  no  connection  whatever  with  secret  societies, 

Freemasonry  or 

Merovingian  genealogies.  Like  our  BBC  researcher,  M.  Paoli  also 

contacted 

Grande  Loge  Alpine  and  met  with  the  Loge's  Chancellor,  and  each  received  an 

ambiguous  reply.  According  to  M.  Paoli,  the  Chancellor  denied  all  knowledge  of  anyone 

named  "Lobineau'  or  "Schidlof.  As  for  the  various  works  bearing  the  Alpina  imprint,  the 

Chancellor  asserted  quite  categorically  that  they  did  not  exist.  And  yet  a  personal  friend  of 

M.  Paoli's  who  was  also  a  member  of  Alpina,  claimed  to  have  seen  the  works  in  the 

Loge's  library.  M.  Paoli's  conclusion  is  as  follows: 

There  is  one  of  two  possibilities.  Given  the  specific  character  of  the 

works  of  Henri  Lobineau,  Grande  Loge  Alpine  which  forbids  all  political 

activity  both  within  Switzerland  and  without  does  not  want  known  its 

involvement  in  the  affair.  Or  another  movement  has  availed  itself  of 

the  name  of  the 

Grande  Loge  in  order  to  camouflage  its  own  activities. 3 

In  the  Versailles  Annexe  of  the  Bibliotheque  Nationale,  M.  Paoli 


231 


discovered  four  issues  of  Circuit,3'  the  magazine  Fig.  2  The  Cover 
Design  of  the  Novel,  Circuit 
~  1  /  r,1  Mi-." 

/ 

ci  11  %VjVn  —  "  /I/  i  I  .n  11  /l\ 

i  ~y%1\\ 
,rh  1/r/ 


232 


r  ~  ;  1  / 239  mentioned  in  the  Prieure  de  Sion's 

statutes.  The  first  one  was  dated  July  1st,  1959,  and  its  director  was 

listed  as  Pierre  Plantard.  But  the  magazine  itself  did  not  purport  to 

be  connected  with,  the  Prieure  de  Sion.  On  the  contrary  it  declared 

itself  the  official  organ  of  something  called  the 

Federation  of  French  Forces.  There  was  even  a  seal,  which  M.  Paoli  reproduces  in  his 

book,  and  the  following  data: 

Publication  periodique  culturelle  de  la  Federation  des  Forces  Franpaises  116  Rue  Pierre 

Jouhet,  116  Aulnay-sous-Bois  (Seine-et-Oise) 

Tel:  929-72-49 

M.  Paoli  checked  the  above  address.  No  magazine  had  ever  been 

published  there.  The  telephone  number,  too,  proved  to  be  false.  And 

all  M.  Paoli's  attempts  to  track  the  Federation  of  French  Forces  proved 

futile.  To  this  day  no  information  on  any  such  organisation  has  been 

forthcoming.  But  it  would  hardly  seem  coincidental  that  the  French 

headquarters  of  the 

Committees  of  Public  Safety  were  also  Aulnay-sous-Bois. 3z  The 

Federation  of 

French  Forces  would  thus  appear  to  have  been  in  some  way  connected  with  the 

committees.  There  would  seem  to  be  considerable  basis  for  this  assumption. 

M.  Paoli  reports  that  Volume  2  of  Circuit  alludes  to  a  letter  from  de 

Gaulle  to  Pierre  Plantard,  thanking  the  latter  for  his  service.  The 

service  in  question  would  seem  to  have  been  the  work  of  the  Committees 

of  Public 

Safety. 

According  to  M.  Paoli,  most  of  the  articles  in  Circuit  dealt  with  esoteric  matters.  They  were 

signed  by  Pierre  Plantard  under  both  his  own  name  and  the  pseudonym  "Chyren'  Anne 

Lea  Hisler  and  others  with  whom  we  were  already  familiar.  At  the  same  time,  however, 

there  were  other  articles  of  a  very  different  kind.  Some  of  them,  for  example,  spoke  of  a 

secret  science  of  vines  and  viticulture  the  grafting  of  vines  which,  apparently,  had  some 

crucial  bearing  on  politics.  This  seemed  to  make  no  sense  unless  we  assumed  that  vines 

and  viticulture  were  to  be  understood  allegorically  a  metaphor  perhaps  for  genealogies,  for 

family  trees  and  dynastic  alliances. 

When  the  articles  in  Circuit  were  not  arcane  or  obscure,  they  were, 


233 


according  to  M.  Paoli,  fervently  nationalistic.  In  one  of  them,  for 

instance,  signed  Adrian  Sevrette,  the  author  asserts  that  no  solution 

for  existing  problems  will  be  forthcoming  except  through  new  methods 

and  new  men,  for  politics  are  dead.  The  curious  fact  remains  that  men 

do  not  wish  to  recognise  this.  There  exists  only  one  question: 

economic  organisation.  But  do  there  still  exist  men  who  are  capable  of 

thinking  France,  as  during  the  Occupation,  when  patriots  and  resistance 

fighters  did  not  bother  themselves  about  the  political  tendencies  of 

their  comrades  in  the  fight  ?33 

And  from  Volume  4  of  Circuit,  M.  Paoli  quotes  the  following  passage: 

We  desire  that  the  1 500  copies  of  Circuit  be  a  contact  which  kindles  a 

light,  we  desire  that  the  voice  of  patriots  be  able  to  transcend 

obstacles  as  in  1940,  when  they  left  invaded  France  to  come  and  knock 

on  the  office  door  of  the  leader  of  Free  France.  Today,  it  is  the 

same,  before  all  we  are 

French,  we  are  that  force  which  fights  in  one  way  or  another  to 

construct  a  France  cleansed  and  new.  This  must  be  done  in  the  same 

patriotic  spirit,  with  the  same  will  and  solidarity  of  action.  Thus  we 

cite  here  what  we  declare  to  be  an  old  philosophy  .34 

There  then  follows  a  detailed  plan  of  government  to  restore  to  France  a  lost  lustre.  It 

insists,  for  example,  on  the  dismantling  of  departments  and  the  restoration  of  provinces: 

The  department  is  but  an  arbitrary  system,  created  at  the  time  of  the 

Revolution,  dictated  and  determined  by  the  era  in  accordance  with  the  demands  of 

locomotion  (the  horse).  Today,  it  no  longer  represents  anything. 

In  contrast,  the  province  is  a  living  portion  of  France;  it  is  a  whole 

vestige  of  our  past,  the  same  basis  as  that  which  formed  the  existence 

of  our  nation;  it  has  its  own  folklore,  its  customs,  its  monuments, 

often  its  local  dialects,  which  we  wish  to  reclaim  and  promulgate.  The 

province  must  have  its  own  specific  apparatus  for  defence  and 

administration,  adapted  to  its  specific  needs,  with  the  national  unit 


234 


.35  M.  Paoli  then  quotes  eight  pages  that  follow.  The  material  they 

contain  is  organised  under  the  following  subheadings: 

Council  of  the  Provinces  Council  of  State  Parliamentary  Council  Taxes 

Work  and  Production  Medical  National  Education  Age  of  Majority  Housing 

and  Schools 

The  plan  of  government  proposed  under  these  subheadings  is  not  inordinately 

controversial,  and  could  probably  be  instituted  with  a  minimum  of  upheaval. 

Nor  can  the  plan  be  labelled  politically.  It  cannot  be  called 

'left-wing'  or  'right-wing',  liberal  or  conservative,  radical  or 

reactionary.  On  the  whole,  it  seems  fairly  innocuous;  and  one  is  at  a 

loss  to  see  how  it  would  necessarily  restore  any  particular  lost  lustre 

to  France.  As  M.  Paoli  says,  "The  propositions  ..  .  are  not 

revolutionary.  However,  they  rest  on  a  realistic  analysis  of  the 

actual  structures  of  the  French  state,  and  are  impregnated  with  a  solid 

good  sense.  '36  But  then  the  plan  of  government  outlined  in  Circuit 

makes  no  explicit  mention  of  the  real  basis  on  which,  if  implemented, 

it  would  presumably  ultimately  rest  the  restoration  of  a  popular 

monarchy  ruled  by  the  Merovingian  bloodline.  In  Circuit  there  would  be 

no  need  to  state  this,  for  it  would  constitute  an  underlying  'given',  a 

premise  on  which  everything  published  in  the  magazine  pivoted.  For  the 

magazine's  intended  readers  the  restoration  of  the  Merovingian 

bloodline  was  clearly  too  obvious  and  accepted  an  objective  to  need  be 

labouring 

At  this  point  irt  his  book  M.  Paoli  poses  a  crucial  question  a  question  that  had  haunted  us 

as  well: 

We  have,  on  the  one  hand,  a  concealed  descent  from  the  Merovingians 

and,  on  the  other,  a  secret  movement,  the  Prieure  de  Sion,  whose  goal 

is  to  facilitate  the  restoration  of  a  popular  monarchy  of  the 

Merovingian  line  .  But  it  is  necessary  to  know  if  this  movement 

contents  itself  with  esoterico-political  speculations  (whose  unavowed 


235 


end  is  to  make  much  money  by  exploiting  the  world's  gullibility  and 

naivete)  or  whether  this  movement  is  genuinely  active. 3' 

M.  Paoli  then  considers  this  question,  reviewing  the  evidence  at  his  disposal.  His 

conclusion  is  as  follows: 

Unquestionably,  the  Prieure  de  Sion  seems  to  possess  powerful  connections. 

In  actuality,  any  creation  of  an  association  is  submitted  to  a 

preliminary  inquiry  by  the  Minister  of  the  Interior.  This  obtains  as 

well  for  a  magazine,  a  publishing  house.  And  yet  these  people  are  able 

to  publish,  under  pseudonyms,  at  false  addresses,  through  non-existent 

publishing  houses,  works  which  cannot  be  found  in  circulation  either  in 

Switzerland  or  in  France.  There  are  two  possibilities.  Either 

government  authorities  are  not  doing  their  jobs.  Or  else  ..  .3e 

M.  Paoli  does  not  spell  out  the  alternative.  At  the  same  time  it  is  apparent  that  he 

personally  regards  the  unstated  alternative  as  the  more  probable  of  the  two.  M.  Paoli's 

conclusion,  in  short,  is  that  government  officials,  and  a  great  many  other  powerful  people 

as  well  are  either  members  of  Sion  or  obedient  to  it.  If  this  is  so,  Sion  must  be  a  very 

influential  organisation  indeed. 

Having  conducted  extensive  research  of  his  own,  M.  Paoli  is  satisfied  with  the 

Merovingian  claim  to  legitimacy.  To  that  extent,  he  admits,  he  can  make  sense  of  Sion's 

objectives.  Beyond  this  point,  however,  he  confesses  himself  to  be  profoundly  puzzled. 

What  is  the  point,  he  wonders,  of  restoring  the  Merovingian  bloodline  today,  1300  years 

after  it  was  deposed?  Would  a  modern-day  Merovingian  regime  be  different  from  any 

other  modern  day  regime? 

If  so,  how  and  why?  What  is  so  special  about  the  Merovingians?  Even  if  their  claim  is 

legitimate,  it  would  seem  to  be  irrelevant.  Why  should  so  many  powerful  and  intelligent 

people,  both  today  and  in  the  past,  accord  it  not  only  their  attention,  but  their  allegiance  as 

well? 

We,  of  course,  were  posing  precisely  the  same  questions.  Like  M. 

Paoli,  we  were  prepared  to  acknowledge  the  Merovingian  claim  to 

legitimacy.  But  what  possible  significance  could  such  a  claim  enjoy 

today?  Could  the  technical  legitimacy  of  a  monarchy  really  be  so 

persuasive  and  convincing  an  argument?  Why,  in  the  late  twentieth 


236 


century,  should  any  monarchy,  legitimate  or  not,  command  the  kind  of 

allegiance  the 

Merovingians  seemed  to  command? 

If  we  were  dealing  only  with  a  group  of  idiosyncratic  cranks,  we  could  dismiss  the  matter 

out  of  hand.  But  we  were  not.  On  the  contrary,  we  seemed  to  be  dealing  with  an 

extremely  influential  organisation  which  included  in  its  ranks  some  of  the  most  important, 

most  distinguished,  most  acclaimed  and  most  responsible  men  of  our  age.  And  these 

men,  in  many  cases,  seemed  to  regard  the  restoration  of  the  Merovingian  dynasty  as  a 

sufficiently  valid  goal  to  transcend  their  personal  political,  social  and  religious  differences. 

It  seemed  to  make  no  sense  that  the  restoration  of  a  1300-year-old  bloodline  should 

constitute  so  vital  a  cause  celebre  for  so  many  public  and  highly  esteemed  people. 

Unless,  of  course,  we  were  overlooking  something. 

Unless  legitimacy  was  not  the  only  Merovingian  claim.  Unless  there  was 

something  else  of  immense  consequence  that  differentiated  the 

Merovingians  from  other  dynasties.  Unless,  in  short,  there  was 


237 


something  very  special  indeed  about  the  Merovingian  blood  royal.  9 

The  Long-haired  Monarchs 

By  this  time,  of  course,  we  had  already  researched  the  Merovingian  dynasty. 

As  far  as  we  could  we  had  groped  our  way  through  a  mist  of  fantasy  and 

obscurity  even  more  opaque  than  that  surrounding  the  Cathars  and  the 

Knights 

Templar.  We  had  spent  some  months  endeavouring  to  disentangle  complex 

strands  of  intertwined  history  and  fable.  Despite  our  efforts, 

however,  the 

Merovingians  remained  for  the  most  part  shrouded  in  mystery. 

The  Merovingian  dynasty  issued  from  the  Sicambrians,  a  tribe  of  the 

Germanic  people  collectively  known  as  the  Franks.  Between  the  fifth 

and  seventh  centuries  the  Merovingians  ruled  large  parts  of  what  are 

now  France  and  Germany.  The  period  of  their  ascendancy  coincides  with 

the  period  of 

King  Arthur  a  period  which  constitutes  the  setting  for  the  romances  of  the  Holy  Grail.  It  is 

probably  the  most  impenetrable  period  of  what  are  now  called  the  Dark  Ages.  But  the 

Dark  Ages,  we  discovered,  had  not  been  truly  dark.  On  the  contrary  it  quickly  became 

apparent  to  us  that  someone  had  deliberately  obscured  them.  To  the  extent  that  the 

Roman  Church  exercised  a  veritable  monopoly  on  learning,  and  especially  on  writing,  the 

records  that  survived  represent  certain  vested  interests.  Almost  everything  else  has  been 

lost  or  censored.  But  here  and  there  something  from  time  to  time  slipped  through  the 

curtain  drawn  across  the  past,  seeped  out  to  us  despite  the  official  silence.  From  these 

shadowy  vestiges,  a  reality  could  be  reconstructed  a  reality  of  a  most  interesting  kind,  and 

one  very  discordant  with  the  tenets  of  orthodoxy. 

Legend  and  the  Merovingians 


238 


We  encountered  a  number  of  enigmas  surrounding  the  origins  of  the 

Merovingian  dynasty.  One  usually  thinks  of  a  dynasty,  for  example,  as 

a  ruling  family  or  house  which  not  merely  succeeds  another  ruling 

family  or  house,  but  does  so,  by  virtue  of  having  displaced,  deposed  or 

supplanted  its  predecessors.  In  other  words  one  thinks  of  dynasties  as 

commencing  with  a  coup  d'etat  of  one  sort  or  another,  often  entailing 

the  extinction  of  the  previous  ruling  line.  The  Wars  of  the  Roses  in 

England,  for  instance,  marked  the  change  of  a  dynasty.  A  century  or  so 

later  the 

Stuarts  mounted  the  English  throne  only  when  the  Tudors  were  extinct. 

And  the  Stuarts  themselves  were  deposed  forcibly  by  the  houses  of 

Orange  and 

Hanover. 

In  the  case  of  the  Merovingians,  however,  there  was  no  such  violent  or 

abrupt  transition,  no  usurpation,  no  displacement,  no  extinction  of  an 

earlier  regime.  On  the  contrary  the  house  that  came  to  be  called 

Merovingian  seems  already  to  have  ruled  over  the  Franks.  The  Merovingians  were 

already  rightful  and  duly  acknowledged  kings.  But  there  appears  to  have  been  something 

special  about  one  of  them  so  much  so  that  he  conferred  his  name  on  the  entire  dynasty. 

The  ruler  from  whom  the  Merovingians  derived  their  name  is  most  elusive,  his  historical 

reality  eclipsed  by  legend.  Merovee  (Merovech  or  Meroveus)  was  a  semi  supernatural 

figure  worthy  of  classical  myth.  Even  his  name  bears  witness  to  his  miraculous  origin  and 

character.  It  echoes  the  French  word  for  'mother',  as  well  as  both  the  French  and  Latin 

words  for  'sea'. 

According  to  both  the  leading  Frankish  chronicler  and  to  subsequent 

tradition,  Merovee  was  born  of  two  fathers.  When  already  pregnant  by 

her  husband,  King  Clodio,  Merovee's  mother  supposedly  went  swimming  in 

the  ocean.  In  the  water  she  is  said  to  have  been  seduced  and/or  raped 

by  an  unidentified  marine  creature  from  beyond  the  sea  bes  tea 

Neptuni 

Quinotauri  similis',  a  "beast  of  Neptune  similar  to  a  Quinotaur',  whatever  a  Quinotaur  may 

have  been.  This  creature  apparently  impregnated  the  lady  a  second  time.  And  when 

Merovee  was  born,  there  allegedly  flowed  in  his  veins  a  commingling  of  two  different 

bloods  the  blood  of  a  Frankish  ruler  and  of  a  mysterious  aquatic  creature. 

Such  fantastic  legends  are  quite  common,  of  course,  not  only  in  the 


239 


ancient  world,  but  in  later  European  tradition  as  well.  Usually  they 
are  not  entirely  imaginary,  but  symbolic  or  allegorical,  masking  some  concrete  historical 
fact  behind  their  fabulous  facade.  In  the  case  of  Merovee  the  fabulous  facade  might  well 
indicate  an  intermarriage  of  some  sort  a  pedigree  transmitted  through  the  mother,  as  in 
Judaism,  for  instance,  or  a  mingling  of  dynastic  lines  whereby  the  Franks  became  allied  by 
blood  with  someone  else;  quite  possibly  with  a  source  from  'beyond  the  sea'  -  a  source 
which,  for  one  or  another  reason,  was  transformed  by  subsequent  fable  into  a  sea- 
creature. 

In  any  case  by  virtue  of  his  dual  blood  Merovee  was  said  to  have  been 
endowed  with  an  impressive  array  of  superhuman  powers.  And  whatever 
the  historical  actuality  behind  the  legend,  the  Merovingian  dynasty 
continued  to  be  mantled  in  an  aura  of  magic,  sorcery  and  the 
supernatural.  According  to  tradition,  Merovingian  monarchs  were  occult 
adepts,  initiates  in  arcane  sciences,  practitioners  of  esoteric  arts 
worthy  rivals  of  Merlin  their  fabulous  near-contemporary.  They  were 
often  called  'the  sorcerer  kings'  or  'thaumaturge  kings'.  By  virtue  of 
some  miraculous  property  in  their  blood  they  could  allegedly  heal  by 
laying  on  of  hands;  and  according  to  one  account  the  tassels  at  the 
fringes  of  their  robes  were  deemed  to  possess  miraculous  curative 
powers.  They  were  said  to  be  capable  of  clairvoyant  or  telepathic 
communication  with  beasts  and  with  the  natural  world  around  them,  and 
to  wear  a  powerful  magical  necklace.  They  were  said  to  possess  an 
arcane  spell  which  protected  them  and  granted  them  phenomenal  longevity 
which  history,  incidentally,  does  not  seem  to  confirm.  And  they  all 
supposedly  bore  a  distinctive  birthmark,  which  distinguished  them  from 
all  other  men,  which  rendered  them  immediately  identifiable  and  which 
attested  to  their  semidivine  or  sacred  blood.  This  birthmark  reputedly 
took  the  form  of  a  red  cross,  either  over  the  heart  a  curious 
anticipation  of  the 

Templar  blazon  or  between  the  shoulder  blades. 
The  Merovingians  were  also  frequently  called  'the  longhaired  kings'. 
Like 

Samson  in  the  Old  Testament,  they  were  loath  to  cut  their  hair.  Like 
Samson's,  their  hair  supposedly  contained  their  vertu  the  essence  and 
secret  of  their  power.  Whatever  the  basis  for  this  belief  in  the  power 


240 


of  the  Merovingians'  hair,  it  seems  to  have  been  taken  quite 

seriously,  and  as  late  as  A.D.  754.  When  Childeric  III  was  deposed  in  that  year  and 

imprisoned,  his  hair  was  ritually  shorn  at  the  pope's  express  command. 

However  extravagant  the  legends  surrounding  the  Merovingians,  they 

would  seem  to  rest  on  some  concrete  basis,  some  status  enjoyed  by  the 

Merovingian  monarchs  during  their  own  lifetime.  In  fact  the 

Merovingians  were  not  regarded  as  kings  in  the  modern  sense  of  that 

word.  They  were  regarded  as  priest-kings  embodiments  of  the  divine,  in 

other  words,  not  unlike,  say,  the  ancient  Egyptian  pharaohs.  They  did 

not  rule  simply  by  God's  grace.  On  the  contrary  they  were  apparently 

deemed  the  living  embodiment  and  incarnation  of  God's  grace  a  status 

usually  reserved  exclusively  for 

Jesus.  And  they  seem  to  have  engaged  in  ritual  practices  which  partook,  if  anything, 

more  of  priesthood  than  of  kingship.  Skulls  found  of  Merovingian  monarchs,  for  example, 

bear  what  appears  to  be  a  ritual  incision  or  hole  in  the  crown.  Similar  incisions  can  be 

found  in  the  skulls  of  high  priests  of  early  Tibetan  Buddhism  to  allow  the  soul  to  escape  on 

death,  and  to  open  direct  contact  with  the  divine.  There  is  reason  to  suppose  that  the 

clerical  tonsure  is  a  residue  of  the  Merovingian  practice. 

In  1653  an  important  Merovingian  tomb  was  found  in  the  Ardennes  the  tomb  of  King 

Childeric  I,  son  of  Merovee  and  father  of  Clovis,  most  famous  and  influential  of  all 

Merovingian  rulers.  The  tomb  contained  arms,  treasure  and  regalia,  such  as  one  would 

expect  to  find  in  a  royal  tomb.  It  also  contained  items  less  characteristic  of  kingship  than 

of  magic,  sorcery  and  divination  a  severed  horse's  head,  for  instance,  a  bull's  head  made 

of  gold  and  a  crystal  ball." 

One  of  the  most  sacred  of  Merovingian  symbols  was  the  bee;  and  King 

Childeric's  tomb  contained  no  less  than  three  hundred  miniature  bees 

made  of  solid  gold.  Along  with  the  tomb's  other  contents,  these  bees 

were  entrusted  to  Leopold  Wilhelm  von  Habsburg,  military  governor  of 

the 

Austrian  Netherlands  at  the  time  and  brother  of  the  Emperor  Ferdinand 

111.2 

Eventually  most  of  Childeric's  treasure  was  returned  to  France.  And  when  he  was 

crowned  emperor  in  1804  Napoleon  made  a  special  point  of  having  the  golden  bees 

affixed  to  his  coronation  robes. 


241 


This  incident  was  not  the  only  manifestation  of  Napoleon's  interest  in 

the  Merovingians.  He  commissioned  a  compilation  of  genealogies  by  one 

Abbe  Pichon,  to  determine  whether  or  not  the  Merovingian  bloodline  had 

survived  the  fall  of  the  dynasty.  It  was  on  these  genealogies, 

commissioned  by  Napoleon,  that  the  genealogies  in  the  "Prieure 

documents'  were  in  large  part  based  .3 

The  Bear  from  Arcadia 

The  legends  surrounding  the  Merovingians  proved  worthy  of  the  age  of  Arthur  and  the 

Grail  romances.  At  the  same  time  they  constituted  a  daunting  rampart  between  us  and 

the  historical  reality  we  wanted  to  explore.  When  we  at  last  gained  access  to  it  or  what 

little  of  it  survived  this  historical  reality  was  somewhat  different  from  the  legends.  But  it 

was  not  any  the  less  mysterious,  extraordinary  or  evocative. 

We  could  find  little  verifiable  information  about  the  true  origins  of 

the 

Merovingians.  They  themselves  claimed  descent  from  Noah,  whom  they 

regarded,  even  more  than  Moses,  as  the  source  of  all  Biblical  wisdom  an 

interesting  position,  which  surfaced  again  a  thousand  years  later  in 

European  Freemasonry.  The  Merovingians  also  claimed  direct  descent  from  ancient  Troy 

which,  whether  true  or  not,  would  serve  to  explain  the  occurrence  in  France  of  Trojan 

names  like  Troyes  and  Paris.  More  contemporary  writers  including  the  authors  of  the 

"Prieure  documents'  have  endeavoured  to  trace  the  Merovingians  to  ancient  Greece,  and 

specifically  to  the  region  known  as  Arcadia.  According  to  these  documents,  the  ancestors 

of  the  Merovingians  were  connected  with  Arcadia's  royal  house.  At  some  unspecified 

date  towards  the  advent  of  the  Christian  era  they  supposedly  migrated  up  the  Danube, 

then  up  the  Rhine,  and  established  themselves  in  what  is  now  western  Germany. 

Whether  the  Merovingians  derived  ultimately  from  Troy  or  from  Arcadia 

would  now  seem  to  be  academic,  and  there  is  not  necessarily  a  conflict 

between  the  two  claims.  According  to  Homer  a  substantial  contingent  of 


242 


Arcadians  was  present  at  the  siege  of  Troy.  According  to  early  Greek 

histories,  Troy  was  in  fact  founded  by  settlers  from  Arcadia.  It  is 

also  worth  noting  in  passing  that  the  bear,  in  ancient  Arcadia,  was  a 

sacred  animal  a  totem  on  which  mystery  cults  were  based  and  to  which 

ritual  sacrifice  was  made."  Indeed,  the  very  name  "Arcadia'  derives 

from 

"Arkades',  which  means  "People  of  the  Bear'.  The  ancient  Arcadians  claimed  descent 

from  Arkas,  the  patron  deity  of  the  land,  whose  name  also  means  'bear'.  According  to 

Greek  myth,  Arkas  was  the  son  of  Kallisto,  a  nymph  connected  with  Artemis,  the 

Huntress.  To  the  modern  mind  Kallisto  is  most  familiar  as  the  constellation  Ursa  Major  the 

Great  Bear. 

For  the  Sicambrian  Franks,  from  whom  the  Merovingians  issued,  the  bear  enjoyed  a 

similar  exalted  status.  Like  the  ancient  Arcadians  they  worshipped  the  bear  in  the  form  of 

Artemis  or,  more  specifically,  the  form  of  her  Gallic  equivalent,  Arduina,  patron  goddess  of 

the  Ardennes.  The  mystery  cult  of  Arduina  persisted  well  into  the  Middle  Ages,  one  centre 

of  it  being  the  town  of  Luneville,  not  far  from  two  other  sites  recurring  repeatedly  in  our 

investigation  Stenay  and  Orval.  As  late  as  1304  statutes  were  still  being  promulgated  by 

the  Church  forbidding  worship  of  the  heathen  goddess." 

Given  the  magical,  mythic  and  totemic  status  of  the  bear  in  the 

Merovingian  heartland  of  the  Ardennes,  it  is  not  surprising  that  the 

name  "Ursus'  Latin  for  "bear'  should  be  associated  in  the  "Prieure 

documents'  with  the 

Merovingian  royal  line.   Rather  more  surprising  is  the  fact  that  the  Welsh  word  for  bear  is 

"arth'  from  whence  the  name  "Arthur'  derives.  Although  we  did  not  pursue  the  matter  at 

this  point,  the  coincidence  intrigued  us  that  Arthur  should  not  only  be  contemporary  with 

the  Merovingians,  but  also,  like  them,  associated  with  the  bear. 

The  Sicambrians  Enter  Gaul 

In  the  early  fifth  century  the  invasion  of  the  Huns  provoked 

large-scale  migrations  of  almost  all  European  tribes.  It  was  at  this 

time  that  the  Merovingians  or,  more  accurately,  the  Sicambrian 

ancestors  of  the  Merovingians  crossed  the  Rhine  and  moved  en  masse  into 


243 


Gaul,  establishing  themselves  in  what  is  now  Belgium  and  northern 

France,  in  the  vicinity  of  the  Ardennes.  A  century  later  this  region  came  to  be  called  the 

kingdom  of  Austrasie.  And  the  core  of  the  kingdom  of  Austrasie  was  what  is  now  known 

as  Lorraine. 

The  Sicambrian  influx  into  Gaul  did  not  consist  of  a  horde  of  wild  unkempt  barbarians 

tumultuously  overrunning  the  land.  On  the  contrary  it  was  a  placid  and  civilised  affair.  For 

centuries  the  Sicambrians  had  maintained  close  contact  with  the  Romans;  and  though 

they  were  pagans,  they  were  riot  savages.  Indeed  they  were  well  versed  in  Roman 

customs  and  administration,  and  followed  Roman  fashions.  Some  Sicambrians  had 

become  high-ranking  officers  in  the  imperial  army.  Some  had  even  become  Roman 

consuls.  Thus,  the  Sicambrian  influx  was  less  an  onslaught  or  an  invasion  than  a  kind  of 

peaceful  absorption. 

And  when,  towards  the  end  of  the  fifth  century,  the 

Roman  empire  collapsed,  the  Sicambrians  filled  the  vacuum.  They  did 

not  do  so  violently  or  by  force.  They  retained  the  old  customs  and 

altered  very  little.  With  no  upheaval  whatever;  they  assumed  control 

of  the  already  existing  but  vacant  administrative  apparatus.  The 

regime  of  the  early 

Merovingians  thus  conformed  fairly  closely  to  the  model  of  the  old  Roman  empire. 

Merovee  and  His  Descendants 

Our  research  exhumed  mention  of  at  least  two  historical  figures  named 

Merovee,  and  it  is  not  altogether  clear  which  of  them  legend  credits  with  descent  from  a 

sea  creature  One  Merovee  was  a  Sicambrian  chieftain,  alive  in  417,  who  fought  under  the 

Romans  and  died  in  438. 

It  has  been  suggested  by  at  least  one  modern  expert  on  the  period  that 

this  Merovee  actually  visited 

Rome  and  caused  something  of  a  sensation.  There  is  certainly  a  record  of  a  visit  by  an 

imposing  Frankish  leader,  conspicuous  for  his  flowing  yellow  hair. 

In  448  the  son  of  this  first  Merovee,  bearing  the  same  name  as  his 

father,  was  proclaimed  king  of  the  Franks  at  Tournai  and  reigned  until 

his  death  ten  years  later.  He  may  have  been  the  first  official  king  of 


244 


the  Franks  as  united  people.  By  virtue  of  this  perhaps,  or  of 

whatever  was  symbolised  by  his  fabulous  dual  birth,  the  dynasty  which  succeeded  him 

has  since  been  called  Merovingian. 

Under  Merovee's  successors  the  kingdom  of  the  Franks  flourished.  It 

was  not  the  crude  barbaric  culture  often  imagined.  On  the  contrary,  it 

warrants  comparison  in  many  respects  with  the  'high  civilisation'  of 

Byzantium.  Even  secular  literacy  was  encouraged.  Under  the 

Merovingians  secular  literacy  was  more  widespread  than  it  would  be  two 

dynasties  and  five  hundred  years  later.  This  literacy  extended  up  to 

the  rulers  themselves  a  most  surprising  fact,  given  the  rude,  untutored 

and  unlettered  character  of  later  medieval  monarchs.  King  Chilperic, 

for  example,  who  reigned  during  the  sixth  century,  not  only  built 

lavish  Roman-style  amphitheatres  at  Paris  and  Soissons,  but  was  also  a 

dedicated  and  accomplished  poet,  who  took  considerable  pride  in  his 

craft.  And  there  are  verbatim  accounts  of  his  discussions  with 

ecclesiastical  authorities  which  reflect  an  extraordinary  subtlety, 

sophistication  and  learning  hardly  qualities  one  would  associate  with  a 

king  of  the  time.  In  many  of  these  discussions  Chilperic  proves 

himself  more  than  equal  to  his  clerical  interlocutors. s 

Under  Merovingian  rule  the  Franks  were  often  brutal,  but  they  were  not 

really  a  warlike  people  by  nature  or  disposition.  They  were  not  like 

the 

Vikings,  for  instance,  or  the  Vandals,  Visigoths  or  Huns.  Their  main 

activities  were  farming  and  commerce.  Much  attention  was  devoted  to 

maritime  trade,  especially  in  the  Mediterranean.  And  the  artefacts  of 

the 

Merovingian  epoch  reflect  a  quality  of  workmanship  which  is  truly  amazing  as  the  Sutton 

Hoo  treasure  ship  attests. 

The  wealth  accumulated  by  the  Merovingian  kings  was  enormous,  even  by 

later  standards.  Much  of  this  wealth  was  in  gold  coins  of  superb 

quality,  produced  by  royal  mints  at  certain  important  sites  including 

what  is  now 

Sion  in  Switzerland.  Specimens  of  such  coins  were  found  in  the  Sutton 

Hoo  treasure  ship,  and  can  now  be  seen  in  the  British  Museum.  Many  of 

the  coins  bear  a  distinctive  equal-armed  cross,  identical  to  the  one 

subsequently  adopted  during  the  Crusades  for  the  Frankish  kingdom  of 


245 


Jerusalem.  Blood  Royal 

Although  Merovingian  culture  was  both  temperate  and  surprisingly  modern,  the  monarchs 
who  presided  over  it  were  another  matter.  They  were  not  typical  even  of  rulers  of  their 
own  age,  for  the  atmosphere  of  mystery  and  legend,  magic  and  the  supernatural, 
surrounded  them  even  during  their  lifetimes.  If  the  customs  and  economy  of  the 


246 


Merovingian  world  did  not  differ  markedly  from  others  of  the  period,  the  aura  about  the 


247 


248 


Sons  of  the  Merovingian  blood  were  not  "created'  kings.  On  the  contrary  they  "mere 

automatically  regarded  as  such  on  the  advent  of  their  twelfth  birthday.  There  was  no 

public  ceremony  of  anointment,  no  coronation  of  any  sort.  Power  was  simply  assumed,  as 

by  sacred  right.  But  while  the  king  was  supreme  authority  in  the  realm,  he  was  never 

obliged  or  even  expected  to  sully  his  hands  with  the  mundane  business  of  governing-  He 

was  essentially  a  ritualised  figure,  a  priest-king,  and  his  role  was  not  necessarily  to  do 

anything,  simply  to  be.  The  king  ruled,  in  short,  but  did  not  govern.  In  this  respect,  his 

status  was  somewhat  similar  to  that  of  the  present  British  royal  family. 

Government  and  administration  were  left  to  a  non-royal  official,  the 

equivalent  of  a  chancellor,  who  held  the  title 

"Mayor  of  the  Palace'.  On  the  whole  the  structure  of  the  Merovingian  regime  had  many 

things  in  common  with  modern  constitutional  monarchies. 

Even  after  their  conversion  to  Christianity  the  Merovingian  rulers,  like  the  Patriarchs  of  the 

Old  Testament,  were  polygamous.  On  occasion  they  enjoyed  harems  of  oriental 

proportions.  Even  when  the  aristocracy,  under  pressure  from  the  Church,  became 

rigorously  monogamous,  the  monarchy  remained  exempt.  And  the  Church,  curiously 

enough,  seems  to  have  accepted  this  prerogative  without  any  inordinate  protest. 

According  to  one  modern  commentator: 

Why  was  it  [polygamy]  tacitly  approved  by  the  Franks  themselves?  We 

may  here  be  in  the  presence  of  ancient  usage  of  polygamy  in  a  royal 

family  a  family  of  such  rank  that  its  blood  could  not  be  ennobled  by 


249 


any  match,  however  advantageous,  nor  degraded  by  the  blood  of  slaves 

...  It  was  a  matter  of  indifference  whether  a  queen  were  taken  from  a  royal  dynasty  or 

from  among  courtesans  ..  .  The  fortune  of  the  dynasty  rested  in  its  blood  and  was  shared 

by  all  who  were  of  that  blood." 

And  again,  "It  is  just  possible  that,  in  the  Merovingians,  we  may  have  a  dynasty  of 

Germanic  Heerkonige  derived  from  an  ancient  kingly  family  of  the  migration  period." 

But  how  many  families  can  there  possibly  have  been  in  the  whole  of 

world  history  which  enjoyed  such  extraordinary  and  exalted  status?  Why 

should  the 

Merovingians  do  so?  Why  should  their  blood  come  to  be  invested  with  such  immense 

power?  These  questions  continued  to  perplex  us. 

Clovis  and  His  Pact  with  the  Church 

The  most  famous  of  all  Merovingian  rulers  was  Merovee's  grandson, 

Clovis  I,  who  reigned  between  481  and  51 1 .  Clovis's  name  is  familiar 

to  any  French  schoolchild,  for  it  was  under  Clovis  that  the  Franks  were 

converted  to  Roman 

Christianity.  And  it  was  through  Clovis  that  Rome  began  to  establish  her  undisputed 

supremacy  in  Western  Europe  a  supremacy  that  would  remain  unchallenged  for  a 

thousand  years. 

By  496  the  Roman  Church  was  in  a  precarious  situation.  During  the 

course  of  the  fifth  century,  its  very  existence  had  been  severely 

threatened.  Between  384  and  399  the  bishop  of  Rome  had  already  begun 

to  call  himself  the  pope,  but  his  official  status  was  no  greater  than 

that  of  any  other  bishop,  and  quite  different  from  that  of  the  pope 

today.  He  was  not,  in  any  sense,  the  spiritual  leader  or  supreme  head 

of  Christendom.  He  merely  represented  a  single  body  of  vested 

interests,  one  of  many  divergent  forms  of 

Christianity  and  one  which  was  desperately  fighting  for  survival  against  a  multitude  of 

conflicting  schisms  and  theological  points  of  view. 

Officially  the  Roman  Church  had  no  greater  authority  than,  say,  the 

Celtic  church  -with  which  it  was  constantly  at  odds.  It  had  no  greater 

authority  than  heresies  such  as  Arianism,  which  denied  Jesus's  divinity 

and  insisted  on  his  humanity.  Indeed  during  much  of  the  fifth  century 


250 


every  bishopric  in  Western  Europe  was  either  Arian  or  vacant. 

If  the  Roman  Church  was  to  survive,  still  more  assert  its  authority,  it 

would  need  the  support  of  a  champion  a  powerful  secular  figure  who 

might  represent  it.  If  Christianity  was  to  evolve  in  accordance  with 

Roman  doctrine,  that  doctrine  would  have  to  be  disseminated, 

implemented  and  imposed  by  secular  force  a  force  sufficiently  powerful 

to  withstand  and  eventually  extirpate  the  challenge  of  rival  Christian 

creeds.  Not  surprisingly  the  Roman  Church,  in  its  most  acute  moment  of 

need,  turned  to 

Clovis. 

By  486  Clovis  had  significantly  increased  the  extent  of  Merovingian 

domains,  striking  out  from  the  Ardennes  to  annex  a  number  of  adjacent 

kingdoms  and  principalities,  vanquishing  a  number  of  rival  tribes.  As 

a  result,  many  important  cities  Troyes,  for  instance,  Rheims  and  Amiens 

were  incorporated  into  his  realm.  Within  a  decade  it  was  apparent 

that 

Clovis  was  well  on  his  way  to  becoming  the  most  powerful  potentate  in 

Western  Europe. 

The  conversion  and  baptism  of  Clovis  proved  to  be  of  crucial  importance  to  our 

investigation.  An  account  of  it  was  compiled,  in  all  its  particulars  and  details,  around  the 

time  it  happened.  Two  and  a  half  centuries  later  this  account,  called  The  Life  of  Saint 

Remy,  was  destroyed,  except  for  a  few  scattered  manuscript  pages.  And  the  evidence 

suggests  that  it  was  destroyed  deliberately.  Nevertheless  the  fragments  that  survive  bear 

witness  to  the  importance  of  what  was  involved. 

According  to  tradition,  Clovis's  conversion  was  a  sudden  and  unexpected 

affair,  effected  by  the  king's  wife,  Clothilde  -  a  fervent  devotee  of 

Rome,  who  seems  to  have  badgered  her  husband  until  he  accepted  her 

faith  and  who  was  subsequently  canonised  for  her  efforts.  In  these 

efforts  she  was  said  to  have  been  guided  and  assisted  by  her  confessor, 

Saint  Remy.  But  behind  these  traditions,  there  lies  a  very  practical 

and  mundane  historical  reality.  When  Clovis  was  converted  to  Roman 

Christianity  and  became  first 

Catholic  king  of  the  Franks,  he  had  more  to  gain  than  his  wife's 

approbation,  and  a  kingdom  more  tangibly  substantial  than  the  kingdom 

of 

Heaven. 

It  is  known  that  in  496  a  number  of  secret  meetings  occurred  between 

Clovis  and  Saint  R6my.  Immediately  thereafter  an  accord  was  ratified 

between 


251 


Clovis  and  the  Roman  Church.  For  Rome  this  accord  constituted  a  major 

political  triumph.  It  would  ensure  the  Church's  survival,  and  establish  that  Church  as 

supreme  spiritual  authority  in  the  West.  It  would  consolidate  Rome's  status  as  an  equal  to 

the  Greek  Orthodox  faith  based  in  Constantinople.  It  would  offer  a  prospect  of  Roman 

hegemony  and  an  effective  means  of  eradicating  the  hydra  heads  of  heresy.  And  Clovis 

would  be  the  means  of  implementing  these  things  the  sword  of  the  Church  of  Rome,  the 

instrument  whereby  Rome  imposed  her  spiritual  dominion,  the  secular  arm  and  palpable 

manifestation  of  Roman  power. 

In  return  Clovis  was  granted  the  title  of  "Novus  Constantinus'  -  "New 

Constantine'.  In  other  words,  he  was  to  preside  over  a  unified  empire 

a  "Holy  Roman  Empire'  intended  to  succeed  the  one  supposedly  created 

under 

Constantine  and  destroyed  by  the  Visigoths  and  Vandals  not  long  before. 

According  to  one  modern  expert  of  the  period,  Clovis,  prior  to  his 

baptism,  was  'fortified  ..  .  with  visions  of  an  empire  in  succession  to 

that  of 

Rome,  which  should  be  the  inheritance  of  the  Merovingian  race. "9 

According  to  another  modern  writer,  "Clovis  must  now  become  a  kind  of  western  emperor, 

a  patriarch  to  the  western  Germans,  reigning  over,  though  not  governing,  all  peoples  and 

kings.  " 

The  pact  between  Clovis  and  the  Roman  Church,  in  short,  was  one  of 

momentous  consequence  to  Christendom  not  only  the  Christendom  of  the 

time,  but  also  the  Christendom  of  the  next  millennium.  Clovis's 

baptism  was  deemed  to  mark  the  birth  of  a  new  Roman  empire  a  Christian 

empire,  based  on  the  Roman  Church  and  administered,  on  the  secular 

level,  by  the 

Merovingian  bloodline.   In  other  words,  an  indissoluble  bond  was 

established  between  church  and  state,  each  pledging  allegiance  to  the 

other,  each  binding  itself  to  the  other  in  perpetuity.  In  ratification 

of  this  bond,  in  496,  Clovis  allowed  himself  to  be  formally  baptised  by 

Saint  Remy  at 

Rheims.  At  the  climax  of  the  ceremony,  Saint  Remy  pronounced  his  famous  words: 

Mitis  depone  colla,  Sicamber,  adora  quod  incendisti,  incendi  quod  adorasti. 

(Bow  thy  head  humbly,  Sicambrian,  revere  what  thou  hast  burned  and  what 


252 


thou  hast  revered.)  It  is  important  to  note  that  Clovis's  baptism  was 

not  a  coronation  as  historians  sometimes  suggest.  The  Church  did  not 

make  Clovis  a  king.  He  was  already  that,  and  all  the  Church  could  do 

was  recognise  him  as  such.  By  virtue  of  so  doing,  the  Church 

officially  bound  itself  not  to  Clovis  alone,  but  to  his  successors  as 

well  not  to  a  single  individual,  but  to  a  bloodline.  In  this  respect 

the  pact  resembled  the  covenant  which  God,  in  the  Old  Testament,  makes 

with  King  David  a  pact  which  can  be  modified,  as  in  Solomon's  case,  but 

not  revoked,  broken  or  betrayed.  And  the 

Merovingians  did  not  lose  sight  of  the  parallel. 

During  the  remaining  years  of  his  life  Clovis  fully  realised  Rome's 

ambitious  expectations  of  him.  With  irresistible  efficiency,  faith  was 

imposed  by  the  sword;  and  with  the  sanction  and  spiritual  mandate  of 

the 

Church,  the  Frankish  kingdom  expanded  to  both  east  and  south, 

encompassing  most  of  modern  France  and  much  of  modern  Germany.  Among 

Clovis's  numerous  adversaries  the  most  important  were  the  Visigoths, 

who  adhered  to  Arian 

Christianity.  It  was  against  the  empire  of  the  Visigoths  which 

straddled  the  Pyrenees  and  extended  as  far  north  as  Toulouse  that 

Clovis  directed  his  most  assiduous  and  concerted  campaigns.  In  507  he 

decisively  defeated  the  Visigoths  at  the  Battle  of  Vouille.  Shortly 

thereafter  Aquitaine  and 

Toulouse  fell  into  Frankish  hands.  The  Visigoth  empire  north  of  the 

Pyrenees  effectively  collapsed  before  the  Frankish  ohslaught.  From 

Toulouse,  the  Visigoths  fell  back  to  Carcassonne.  Driven  from  Carcassonne,  they 

established  their  capital,  and  last  remaining  bastion,  in  the  Razes,  at  Rhedae  now  the 

village  of  Rennes-leChateau. 

Dagobert  II 

In  51 1  Clovis  died,  and  the  empire  he  had  created  was  divided, 

according  to  Merovingian  custom,  between  his  four  sons.  For  more  than 

a  century  thereafter  the  Merovingian  dynasty  presided  over  a  number  of 

disparate  and  often  warring  kingdoms,  while  lines  of  succession  became 

increasingly  tangled  and  claims  to  thrones  increasingly  confused.  The 

authority  once  centralised  in  Clovis  became  progressively  more  diffuse, 


253 


progressively  Map  7  The  Merovingian  Kingdoms 

NeusTRIA_ 

AUSTRASIA 

BURGUNDY 

wColognc" — A., 

-  .  Ruucn  -  - ~  _  ~MeezTr-j 

Pans  ._ 
BRITTANY  ; 
(ARMORICA) 
Pouicn 

-  AQUITAINE 

_"N;A 

Touloum  ='~PMaruJlcz~ 
Narhmnc 


254 


more  inchoate,  and  secular  order  deteriorated.  Intrigues, 

machinations,  kidnappings  and  political  assassination  became  ever  more  commonplace. 

And  the  court  chancellors,  or  "Mayors  of  the  Palace',  accumulated  more  and  more  power 

a  factor  which  would  eventually  contribute  to  the  fall  of  the  dynasty. 

Bereft  increasingly  of  authority  the  later  Merovingian  rulers  have  often  been  called  "les  rois 

faineant'  -  "the  enfeebled  kings'.  Posterity  has  contemptuously  stigmatised  them  as  weak, 

ineffectual  monarchs,  effeminate  and  pliably  helpless  in  the  hands  of  cunning  and  wily 

counsellors.  Our  research  revealed  that  this  stereotype  was  not  strictly  accurate.  It  is  true 

that  the  constant  wars,  vendettas  and  internecine  strife  thrust  a  number  of  Merovingian 

princes  on  to  the  throne  at  an  extremely  youthful  age  and  they  were  thus  easily 

manipulated  by  their  advisers.  But  those  who  did  attain  manhood  proved  as  strong  and 

decisive  as  any  of  their  predecessors.  This  certainly  seems  to  have  been  the  case  with 

Dagobert  II. 

Dagobert  II  was  born  in  653,  heir  to  the  kingdom  of  Austrasie.  On  his  father's  death  in  656 

extravagant  attempts  were  made  to  preclude  his  inheritance  of  the  throne.  Indeed 

Dagobert's  early  life  reads  like  a  medieval  legend,  or  a  fairy  tale.  But  it  is  well 

documented  history." 

On  his  father's  death  Dagobert  was  kidnapped  by  the  presiding  Mayor  of 

the 

Palace,  an  individual  named  Grimoald.  Attempts  to  find  the 

five-year-old  child  proved  fruitless,  and  it  was  not  difficult  to 

convince  the  court  that  he  was  dead.  On  this  basis  Grimoald  then 

engineered  his  own  son's  acquisition  of  the  throne,  claiming  this  had 

been  the  wish  of  the  former  monarch,  Dagobert's  deceased  father.  The 

ruse  worked  effectively.  Even 

Dagobert's  mother,  believing  her  son  dead,  deferred  to  the  ambitious  Mayor  of  the  Palace. 

However,  Grimoald  had  apparently  balked  at  actually  murdering  the  young 

prince.  In  secret  Dagobert  had  been  confided  to  the  charge  of  the 

bishop  of 

Poitiers.  The  bishop,  it  seems,  was  equally  reluctant  to  murder  the  child. 

Dagobert  was  therefore  consigned  to  permanent  exile  in  Ireland.  He 

grew  into  manhood  at  the  Irish  monastery  of  Slane,  '2  not  far  from 

Dublin;  and  here,  at  the  school  attached  to  the  monastery,  he  received 


255 


an  education  unobtainable  in  France  at  the  time.  At  some  point  during 

this  period  he  is  supposed  to  have  attended  the  court  of  the  High  King  of  Tara. 

And  he  is  said  to  have  made  the  acquaintance  of  three  Northumbrian 

princes,  also  being  educated  at  Slane.  In  666,  probably  still  in 

Ireland,  Dagobert  married  Mathilde,  a  Celtic  princess.  Not  long  after 

he  moved  from  Ireland  to 

England,  establishing  residence  at  York,  in  the  kingdom  of  Northumbria.  Here  he  formed 

a  close  friendship  with  Saint  Wilfrid,  bishop  of  York,  who  became  his  mentor. 

During  the  period  in  question  a  schism  still  existed  between  the  Roman 

and 

Celtic  Churches,  with  the  latter  refusing  to  acknowledge  the  former's 

authority.  In  the  interests  of  unity  Wilfrid  was  intent  on  bringing 

the 

Celtic  Church  into  the  Roman  fold.  This  he  had  already  accomplished  at  the  famous 

Council  of  Whitby  in  664.  But  his  subsequent  friendship  and  patronage  of  Dagobert  II  may 

not  have  been  devoid  of  ulterior  motive. 

By 

Dagobert's  time  Merovingian  allegiance  to  Rome  as  dictated  by  the 

Church's  pact  with  Clovis  a  century  and  a  half  before  -was  somewhat  less  fervent  than  it 

might  have  been.  As  a  loyal  adherent  of  Rome,  Wilfrid  was  eager  to  consolidate  Roman 

supremacy  not  only  in  Britain,  but  on  the  continent  as  well.  Were  Dagobert  to  return  to 

France  and  reclaim  the  kingdom  of  Austrasie,  it  would  have  been  expedient  to  ensure  his 

fealty. 

Wilfrid  may  well  have  seen  the  exiled  king  as  a  possible  future  sword-arm  of  the  Church. 

In  670  Mathilde,  Dagobert's  Celtic  wife,  died  giving  birth  to  her  third  daughter.  Wilfrid 

hastened  to  arrange  a  new  match  for  the  recently  bereft  monarch,  and  in  671  Dagobert 

married  for  the  second  time.  If  his  first  alliance  was  of  potential  dynastic  import,  his 

second  was  even  more  so. 

Dagobert's  new  wife  was  Giselle  de  Razes,  daughter  of  the  count  of 

Razes  and  niece  of  the  king  of  the  Visigoths.  '3  In  other  words  the 

Merovingian  bloodline  was  now  allied  to  the  royal  bloodline  of  the 

Visigoths.  Herein  lay  the  seeds  of  an  embryonic  empire  which  would 

have  united  much  of  modern 

France,  extending  from  the  Pyrenees  to  the  Ardennes.  Such  an  empire,  moreover,  would 

have  brought  the  Visigoths  still  with  strong  Arian  tendencies  firmly  under  Roman  control. 


256 


When  Dagobert  married  Giselle,  he  had  already  2  The  Merovingian 

Dynasty  The  Kings 

From  the  work  of  Henri  Lobineau  (Henri  de  Lenoncourt) 

Su  mbrun  ~  ~  Sahan  Frank 

MERO  VEE  SIEGSECLODION  VI 

"a-  fish  leader  King  f  Cambni  m  477  438-48 

Followrd  the  MERO  VEE 

Pagan  h  of  The  Young' 

Uuna  of  the  King  of  Franks  of  Yswl 

At  o(  the  nine  448- 58  fin," 

CHILD  ERIC  11  Hogra 

King  of  Franks  of  Yswl  ducowtedwur  458-96  Toamai  m  1653 

EVOCHILDE  CLOVIS  1 1  eapnad  by  CLOTHILDE 

(pagan)  456-51 1  St.  Remi(Chnrrun) 

King  of  she  Franks24.12.496tit  of  Icing  of  Burgundy 

THIERRY  1  CLODOMIRCHILDEBERTCLOTHILDECLOTAIRE  1  -6  wives  King  f 

Auurasia  King  of  OrleansKmj  of  Pansm.  AmalncKing  of  Soisrons  51 1-34 

51 1  -2451 1  -.58King  of  VisiBoths51 1  -58 

King  of  the  Frwcs  4  other  children 

SIGISBERT  ICHILPERIC  1  =GALESWINTHE  (sixer  of  Bounehaut)  King  f 

Aussrasia  561-84  561-75  King  of  SoiswnsFREDEGONDE  B.-hut  d.  of  Visigoth 

King  rtomarciil  CLOTn  B=Fm  3 

SIGONIUS  584-628 

of  she  Francs  Prefect  of  the  Gauls  DAGO  BERT  I-  5  wives 

V,vgorh  602-38 

King  f  Ausrcasia  622 

TULCA  SERA  lANNEMUNDUSKing  of  the  Fnolcs  630  lu  Count  of  O.aass  Bishop 

of  Lyons  653  King  g  of  Visigoth,  d.  642  IMMACHILDE  -SIGISBERT  BIBATILDE 

f=  CLOVIS  If 

King  of  Aussrasia  632  1633-56 

GISLICA-BERA11  629-56 

r  of  Wamba,  Count  of  Rash  Kmg  of  Vistgoshs  I  from  6J  I 

sours 

Inch  I  666DAGO  BERT  BBLICHILDE  CHIMERIC  1 1 

MATHILDE651-79T651-74 

671  King  of  Austrasia  674I  ("ISELLE  DE  RAZESAAs."by  unde  rl  653-76  f 

Pew,rlie  Fin'l 

CHILD  ERIC  m  Depored  751  Peps  the  Shon', 

SIGI$BERT  Iv  ho  uwrped  htmse  wnh  the  676-758  P~  Count  of  RAZ2a  (FaA~A  of  Ch'  of  th, 

Idmr  11) 

Hast  known  Merovingaai 


257 


Lt.  continua  ire  turned  to  the  continent.  According  to  existing 

documentation,  the  marriage  was  celebrated  at  Giselle's  official 

residence  of  Rhedae,  or 

Rennes-leChateau.  Indeed,  the  marriage  was  reputedly  celebrated  in  the 

church  of  Saint  Madeleine  the  structure  on  the  site  of  which  Berenger 

Sauniere's  church  was  subsequently  erected. 

Dagobert's  first  marriage  had  produced  three  daughters  but  no  male 

heir.  By 

Giselle,  Dagobert  had  two  more  daughters  and  at  last,  in  676,  one  son  the  infant  Sigisbert 

IV.  And  by  the  time  Sigisbert  was  born,  Dagobert  was  once  more  a  king. 

For  some  three  years  he  seems  to  have  bided  his  time  at 

Rennes-leChateau,  watching  the  vicissitudes  of  his  domains  to  the 

north.  Finally,  in  674,  the  opportunity  had  presented  itself.  With 

the  support  of  his  mother  and  her  advisers,  the  long-exiled  monarch 

announced  himself,  reclaimed  his  realm  and  was  officially  proclaimed 

king  of  Austrasie.  Wilfrid  of  York  was  instrumental  in  his 

reinstatement.  According  to  Gerard  de  Sede,  so  too  was  a  much  more 

elusive,  much  more  mysterious  figure,  about  whom  there  is  little 

historical  information  Saint  Amatus,  bishop  of  Sion  in 

Switzerland.  '4 

Once  restored  to  the  throne,  Dagobert  was  no  roi  faineant.  On  the 

contrary,  he  proved  to  be  a  worthy  successor  to  Clovis.  At  once  he  set 

about  asserting  and  consolidating  his  authority,  taming  the  anarchy 

that  prevailed  throughout  Austrasie  and  re-establishing  order.  He 

ruled  firmly,  breaking  the  control  of  various  rebellious  nobles  who  had 

mobilised  sufficient  military  and  economic  power  to  challenge  the 

throne.  And  at 

Rennes-leChateau  he  is  said  to  have  amassed  a  substantial  treasury.  These  resources 

were  to  be  used  to  finance  the  reconquest  of  Aquitaine,"5  which  had  seceded  from 

Merovingian  hands  some  forty  years  previously  and  declared  itself  an  independent 

principality. 

At  the  same  time  Dagobert  must  have  been  a  severe  disappointment  to 

Wilfrid  of  York.  If  Wilfrid  had  expected  him  to  be  a  sword-arm  of  the 

Church, 

Dagobert  proved  nothing  of  the  sort.  On  the  contrary  he  seems  to  have 

curbed  attempted  expansion  on  the  part  of  the  Church  within  his  realm, 

and  thereby  incurred  ecclesiastical  displeasure.  A  letter  from  an 

irate 


258 


Frankish  prelate  to  Wilfrid  exists,  condemning  Dagobert  for  levying 

taxes,  for  "scorning  the  churches  of  God  together  with  their  bishops' 

."6 

Nor  was  this  the  only  respect  in  which  Dagobert  seems  to  have  run  foul 

of 

Rome.  By  virtue  of  his  marriage  to  a  Visigoth  princess  he  had  acquired 

considerable  territory  in  what  is  now  the  Languedoc.  He  may  also  have 

acquired  something  else.  The  Visigoths  were  only  nominally  loyal  to 

the 

Roman  Church.  In  fact  their  allegiance  to  Rome  was  extremely  tenuous,  and  a  tendency 

towards  Arianism  still  obtained  in  the  royal  family.  There  is  evidence  to  suggest  that 

Dagobert  absorbed  something  of  this  tendency. 

By  679,  after  three  years  on  the  throne,  Dagobert  had  made  a  number  of 

powerful  enemies,  both  secular  and  ecclesiastic.  By  curbing  their 

rebellious  autonomy,  he  had  incurred  the  hostility  of  certain 

vindictive  nobles.  By  thwarting  its  attempted  expansion,  he  had  roused 

the  antipathy  of  the  Church.  By  establishing  an  effective  and 

centralised  regime,  he  had  provoked  the  envy  and  alarm  of  other 

Frankish  potentates  the  rulers  of  adjacent  kingdoms.  Some  of  these 

rulers  had  allies  and  agents  within 

Dagobert's  realm.  One  such  was  the  king's  own  Mayor  of  the  Palace,  Pepin  the  Fat.  And 

Pepin,  clandestinely  aligning  himself  with  Dagobert's  political  foes,  did  not  shrink  from 

either  treachery  or  assassination. 

Like  most  Merovingian  rulers,  Dagobert  had  at  least  two  capital  cities. 

The  most  important  of  these  was  Stenay,"  on  the  fringe  of  the  Ardennes. 

Near  the  royal  palace  at  Stenay  stretched  a  heavily  wooded  expanse, 

long  deemed  sacred,  called  the  Forest  of  Woevres.  It  was  in  this 

forest,  on  December  23rd,  679,  that  Dagobert  is  said  to  have  gone 

hunting.  Given  the  date,  the  hunt  may  well  have  been  a  ritual  occasion 

of  some  sort.  In  any  case,  what  followed  evokes  a  multitude  of 

archetypal  echoes,  including  the  murder  of 

Siegfried  in  the  Nibelungenlied. 

Towards  midday,  succumbing  to  fatigue,  the  king  lay  down  to  rest  beside 

a  stream,  at  the  foot  of  a  tree.  While  he  slept,  one  of  his  servants. 

supposedly  his  godson  stole  furtively  up  to  him  and,  acting  under 

Pepin's  orders,  pierced  him  with  a  lance  through  the  eye.  The 

murderers  then  returned  to  Stenay,  intent  on  exterminating  the  rest  of 


259 


the  family  in  residence  there.  How  successful  they  were  in  this 

latter  undertaking  is  not  clear.  But  there  is  no  question  that  the  reign  of  Dagobert  and  his 

family  came  to  an  abrupt  and  violent  end.  Nor  did  the  Church  waste  much  time  grieving. 

On  the  contrary,  it  promptly  endorsed  the  actions  of  the  king's  assassins.  There  is  even  a 

letter  from  a  Frankish  prelate  to  Wilfrid  of  York,  which  attempts  to  rationalise  and  justify 

the  regicide." 

Dagobert's  body  and  posthumous  status  both  underwent  a  curious  number 

of  vicissitudes.  Immediately  after  his  death,  he  was  buried  at  Stenay, 

in  the 

Royal  Chapel  of  Saint  Remy.  In  872  nearly  two  centuries  later  he  was 

exhumed  and  moved  to  another  church.  This  new  church  became  the  Church 

of 

Saint  Dagobert,  for  in  the  same  year  the  dead  king  was  canonised  not  by 

the  pope  (who  did  not  claim  this  right  exclusively  until  1 159),  but  by 

a 

Metropolitan  Conclave.  The  reason  for  Dagobert's  canonisation  remains  unclear. 

According  to  one  source,  it  was  because  his  relics  were  believed  to  have  preserved  the 

vicinity  of  Stenay  against  Viking  raids  though  this  explanation  begs  the  question,  for  it  is 

not  clear  why  the  relics  should  have  possessed  such  powers  in  the  first  place. 

Ecclesiastical  authorities  seem  embarrassingly  ignorant  concerning  the  matter.  They 

admit  that  Dagobert,  for  some  reason,  became  the  object  of  a  fully  fledged  cult  and  had 

his  own  feast  day  December  23rd,  the  anniversary  of  his  death. "9  But  they  seem  utterly  at 

a  loss  as  to  why  he  should  have  been  so  exalted.  It  is  possible,  of  course,  that  the  Church 

felt  guilty  about  its  role  in  the  king's  death.  Dagobert's  canonisation  may  therefore  have 

been  an  attempt  to  make  amends.  If  so,  however,  there  is  no  indication  of  why  such  a 

gesture  should  have  been  deemed  necessary,  nor  why  it  should  have  had  to  wait  for  two 

centuries. 

Stenay,  the  Church  of  Saint  Dagobert  and  perhaps  the  relics  it 

contained  were  all  accorded  great  significance  by  a  number  of 

illustrious  figures  in  the  centuries  that  followed.  In  1069,  for 

example,  the  duke  of  Lorraine  -Godfroi  de  Bouillon's  grandfather 

accorded  special  protection  to  the  church  and  placed  it  under  the 

auspices  of  the  near-by  Abbey  of  Gorze.  Some  years  later  the  church 

was  appropriated  by  a  local  nobleman.  In  1093 

Godfroi  de  Bouillon  mobilised  an  army  and  subjected  Stenay  to  a 


260 


full-scale  siege  for  the  sole  purpose,  it  would  appear,  of  regaining 

the  church  and  returning  it  to  the  Abbey  of  Gorze. 

During  the  French  Revolution,  the  church  was  destroyed  and  the  relics 

of 

Saint  Dagobert,  like  so  many  others  throughout  France,  were  dispersed. 

Today  a  ritually  incised  skull  said  to  be  Dagobert's  is  in  the  custody  of  a  convent  at  Mons. 

All  other  relics  of  the  king  have  disappeared. 

But  in  the  mid-nineteenth  century  a  most  curious  document  came  to 

light.  It  was  a  poem,  a  twenty  one  verse  litany,  entitled  "De  sancta 

Dagoberto  mar  tyre  prose'  implying  that  Dagobert  was  martyred  to,  or 

for,  something.  This  poem  is  believed  to  date  from  at  least  the  Middle 

Ages,  possibly  much  earlier.  Significantly  enough,  it  was  found  at  the 

Abbey  of  Orval.z 

The  Usurpation  by  the  Carolingians 

Strictly  speaking  Dagobert  was  not  the  last  ruler  of  the  Merovingian  dynasty.  In  fact 

Merovingian  monarchs  retained  at  least .  nominal  status  for  another  three  quarters  of  a 

century.  But  these  last  Merovingians  did  warrant  the  appellation  of  rois  faineants.  Many 

of  them  were  extremely  young.  In  consequence  they  were  often  weak,  helpless  pawns  in 

the  hands  of  the  Mayors  of  the  Palace,  incapable  of  asserting  their  authority  or  of  making 

decisions  of  their  own.  They  were  really  little  more  than  victims;  and  more  than  a  few 

became  sacrifices. 

Moreover,  the  later  Merovingians  were  of  cadet  branches,  not  scions  of  the  main  line 

descended  from  Clovis  and  Merovee.  The  main  line  of  Merovingian  descent  had  been 

deposed  with  Dagobert  II.  To  all  intents  and  purposes,  therefore,  Dagobert's 

assassination  may  be  regarded  as  signalling  the  end  of  the  Merovingian  dynasty.  When 

Childeric  III  died  in  754,  it  was  a  mere  formality  so  far  as  dynastic  power  was  concerned. 

As  rulers  of  the  Franks  the  Merovingian  bloodline  had  been  effectively  extinct  long  before. 

As  power  seeped  from  the  hands  of  the  Merovingians,  it  passed  into  the 

hands  of  the  Mayors  of  the  Palace  a  process  that  had  already  commenced 

before  Dagobert's  reign.  It  was  a  Mayor  of  the  Palace.  Pepin  the  Fat, 


261 


who  engineered  Dagobert's  death.  And  Pepin  the  Fat  was  followed  by 

his  son,  the  famous  Charles  Martel. 

In  the  eyes  of  posterity  Charles  Martel  is  one  of  the  most  heroic  figures  in  French  history. 

There  is  certainly  some  basis  for  the  acclaim  given  him. 

Under  Charles  the  Moorish  invasion  of  France  was  checked  at  the  Battle 

of 

Poitiers  in  732;  and  Charles,  by  virtue  of  this  victory,  was,  in  some  sense,  both  "defender 

of  the  Faith'  and  "saviour  of  Christendom'.  What  is  curious  is  that  Charles  Martel,  strong 

man  though  he  was,  never  seized  the  throne  -which  certainly  lay  within  his  grasp.  In  fact 

he  seems  to  have  regarded  the  throne  with  a  certain  superstitious  awe  and,  in  all 

probability,  as  a  specifically  Merovingian  prerogative.  Certainly  Charles's  successors, 

who  did  seize  the  throne,  went  out  of  their  way  to  establish  their  legitimacy  by  marrying 

Merovingian  princesses. 

Charles  Martel  died  in  741 .  Ten  years  later  his  son,  Pepin  III,  Mayor 

of  the  Palace  to  King  Childeric  III,  enlisted  the  support  of  the  Church 

in  laying  formal  claim  to  the  throne.  "Who  should  be  king?"  Pepin's 

ambassadors  asked  the  pope.  "The  man  who  actually  holds  power,  or  he, 

Pepin's  favour.  By  apostolic  authority  he  ordered  that  Pepin  be 

created  king  of  the  Franks  a  brazen  betrayal  of  the  pact  ratified  with 

Clovis  two  and  a  half  centuries  before.  Thus  endorsed  by  Rome,  Pepin 

deposed  Childeric 

III,  confined  the  king  to  a  monastery  and  to  humiliate  him,  to  deprive  him  of  his  "magical 

powers'  or  both  had  him  shorn  of  his  sacred  hair. 

Four  years  later  Childeric  died,  and  Pepin's  claim  to  the  throne  was  undisputed." 

A  year  before  a  crucial  document  had  conveniently  made  its  appearance, 

which  subsequently  altered  the  course  of  Western  history.  This 

document  was  called  the  "Donation  of  Constantine'.  Today  there  is  no 

question  that  it  was  a  forgery,  concocted  and  not  very  skilfully  within 

the  papal 

Chancery.  At  the  time,  however,  it  was  deemed  genuine,  and  its  influence  was  enormous. 

The  "Donation  of  Constantine'  purported  to  date  from  Constantine's 

alleged  conversion  to  Christianity  in  A.D.  312.  According  to  the 

"Donation', 

Constantine  had  officially  given  to  the  bishop  of  Rome  his  imperial  symbols  and  regalia, 

which  thus  became  the  Church's  property. 


262 


The  "Donation'  further  alleged  that  Constantine,  for  the  first  time, 

had  declared  the  bishop  of  Rome  to  be  "Vicar  of  Christ'  and  offered  him  the  status  of 

emperor.  In  his  capacity  as  "Vicar  of  Christ'  the  bishop  had  supposedly  returned  the 

imperial  regalia  to  Constantine,  who  wore  them  subsequently  with  ecclesiastical  sanction 

and  permission  more  or  less  in  the  manner  of  a  loan. 

The  implications  of  this  document  are  clear  enough.  According  to  the 

"Donation  of  Constantine',  the  bishop  of  Rome  exercised  supreme  secular  as  well  as 

supreme  spiritual  authority  over  Christendom.  He  was,  in  effect,  a  papal  emperor,  who 

could  dispose  as  he  wished  of  the  imperial  crown,  who  could  delegate  his  power  or  any 

aspect  thereof  as  he  saw  fit.  In  other  words  he  possessed,  through  Christ,  the  un 

challengeable  right  to  create  or  depose  kings.  It  is  from  the  "Donation  of  Constantine'  that 

the  subsequent  power  of  the  Vatican  in  secular  affairs  ultimately  derives. 

Claiming  authority  from  the  "Donation  of  Constantine',  the  Church  deployed  its  influence 

on  behalf  of  Pepin  III.  It  devised  a  ceremony  whereby  the  blood  of  usurpers,  or  anyone 

else  for  that  matter,  could  be  made  sacred. 

This  ceremony  came  to  be  known  as  coronation  and  anointment  as  those  terms  were 

understood  during  the  Middle  Ages  and  on  into  the  Renaissance. 

At  Pepin's  coronation,  bishops  for  the  first  time  were  authorised  to  attend,  with  rank  equal 

to  that  of  secular  nobles.  And  the  coronation  itself  no  longer  entailed  the  recognition  of  a 

king,  or  a  pact  with  a  king. 

It  now  consisted  of  nothing  less  than  the  creation  of  a  king. 

The  ritual  of  anointment  was  similarly  transformed.  In  the  past,  when  practised  at  all,  it 

was  a  ceremonial  accoutrement  an  act  of  recognition  and  ratification.  Now,  however,  it 

assumed  a  new  significance.  Now  it  took  precedence  over  blood,  and  could  "magically', 

as  it  were,  sanctify  blood. 

Anointment  became  something  more  than  a  symbolic  gesture.  It  became  the  literal  act 

whereby  divine  grace  was  conferred  upon  a  ruler.  And  the  pope,  by  performing  this  act, 

became  supreme  mediator  between  God  and  kings. 

Through  the  ritual  of  anointment,  the  Church  arrogated  to  itself  the 

right  to  make  kings.  Blood  was  now  subordinate  to  oil.  And  all 


263 


monarchs  were  rendered  ultimately  subordinate,  and  subservient,  to  the 

pope. 

In  754  Pepin  III  was  officially  anointed  at  Ponthion,  thus  inaugurating 

the 

Carolingian  dynasty.  The  name  derives  from  Charles  Martel,  although  it  is  generally 

associated  with  the  most  famous  of  Carolingian  rulers,  Charles  the  Great,  Carolus 

Magnus  or,  as  he  is  best  known,  Charlemagne. 

And  in  800 

Charlemagne  was  proclaimed  Holy  Roman  Emperor  a  title  which,  by  virtue  of  the  pact  with 

Clovis  three  centuries  before,  should  have  been  reserved  exclusively  for  the  Merovingian 

bloodline.  Rome  now  became  the  seat  of  an  empire  that  embraced  the  whole  of  Western 

Europe,  whose  rulers  ruled  only  with  the  sanction  of  the  pope. 

In  496  the  Church  had  pledged  itself  in  perpetuity  to  the  Merovingian  bloodline.  In 

sanctioning  the  assassination  of  Dagobei't,  in  devising  the  ceremonies  of  coronation  and 

anointment,  in  endorsing  Pepin's  claim  to  the  throne,  it  had  clandestinely  betrayed  its  pact. 

In  crowning  Charlemagne  it  had  made  its  betrayal  not  only  public,  but  a  fait  accompli.  In 

the  words  of  one  modern  authority: 

We  cannot  therefore  be  sure  that  the  anointing  with  chrism  of  the 

Carolingians  was  intended  to  compensate  for  the  loss  of  magical 

properties  of  the  blood  symbolised  by  long  hair.  If  it  compensated  for 

anything,  it  was  probably  for  loss  of  faith  incurred  in  breaking  an 

oath  of  fidelity  in  a  particularly  shocking  way.zz 

And  again,  "Rome  showed  the  way  by  providing  in  unction  a  king-making 

rite  that  somehow  cleared  the  consciences  of  "all  the  Franks".  '23 

Not  all  consciences,  however.  The  usurpers  themselves  seem  to  have  felt,  if  not  a  sense 

of  guilt,  at  least  an  acute  need  to  establish  their  legitimacy. 

To  this  end  Pepin  III,  immediately  before  his  anointment,  had  ostentatiously  married  a 

Merovingian  princess.  And  Charlemagne  did  likewise. 

Charlemagne,  moreover,  seems  to  have  been  painfully  aware  of  the 

betrayal  involved  in  his  coronation.  According  to  contemporary 

accounts,  the  coronation  was  a  carefully  stage-managed  affair, 

engineered  by  the  pope  behind  the  Frankish  monarch's  back;  and 

Charlemagne  appears  to  have  been  both  surprised  and  profoundly 


264 


embarrassed.  A  crown  of  some  sort  had  already  been  clandestinely 

prepared. 

Charlemagne  had  been  lured  to  Rome  and  there  persuaded  to  attend  a 

special  mass.  When  he  took  his  place  in  the  church,  the  pope,  without 

warning,  placed  a  crown  upon  his  head,  while  the  populace  acclaimed  him 

as  "Charles, 

Augustus,  crowned  by  God,  the  great  and  peace-loving  emperor  of  the  Romans'. 

In  the  words  of  a  chronicler  writing  at  the  time,  Charlemagne  "made  it 

clear  that  he  would  not  have  entered  the  Cathedral  that  day  at  all, 

although  it  was  the  greatest  of  all  festivals  of  the  Church,  if  he  had 

known  in  advance  what  the  Pope  was  planning  to  do.  '24 

But  whatever  Charlemagne's  responsibility  in  the  affair,  the  pact 

with 

Clovis  and  the  Merovingian  bloodline  had  been  shamelessly  betrayed. 

And  all  our  inquiries  indicated  that  this  betrayal,  even  though  it 

occurred  more  than  1100  years  ago,  continued  to  rankle  for  the  Prieure 

de  Sion.  Mathieu 

Paoli,  the  independent  researcher  quoted  in  the  preceding  chapter,  reached  a  similar 

conclusion: 

For  them  [the  Prieure  de  Sion],  the  only  authentic  nobility  is  the 

nobility  of  Visigothic/Merovingian  origin.  The  Carolingians,  then  all 

others,  are  but  usurpers.  In  effect,  they  were  but  functionaries  of 

the  king,  charged  with  administering  lands  who,  after  transmitting  by 

heredity  their  right  to  govern  these  lands,  then  purely  and  simply 

seized  power  for  themselves.  In  consecrating  Charlemagne  in  the  year 

800,  the  Church  perjured  itself,  for  it  had  concluded,  at  the  baptism 

of  Clovis,  an  alliance  with  the 

Merovingians  which  had  made  France  the  eldest  daughter  of  the  Church." 

The  Exclusion  of  Dagobert  II  from  History 

With  the  murder  of  Dagobert  II  in  679  the  Merovingian  dynasty 

effectively  ended.  With  the  death  of  Childeric  III  in  755  the 

Merovingians  seemed  to  vanish  from  the  stage  of  world  history 

completely.  According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  however,  the 

Merovingian  bloodline  in  fact  survived.  According  to  the  "Prieure 

documents',  it  was  perpetuated  to  the  present  day,  from  the  infant 


265 


Sigisbert  IV  Dagobert's  son  by  his  second  wife,  Giselle  de  Razes.There  is  no  question  that 

Sigisbert  existed  and  that  he  was  Dagobert's  heir.  According  to  all  sources  other  than  the 

"Prieure  documents',  however,  it  is  unclear  what  happened  to  him.  Certain  chroniclers 

have  tacitly  assumed  that  he  was  murdered  along  with  his  father  and  other  members  of 

the  royal  family.  One  highly  dubious  account  asserts  that  he  died  in  a  hunting  accident  a 

year  or  two  before  his  father's  death.  If  that  is  true  Sigisbert  must  have  been  a  precocious 

hunter,  for  he  cannot  possibly  have  been  much  more  than  three  years  old  at  the  time. 

There  is  no  record  whatever  of  Sigisbert's  death.  Nor  is  there  any 

record  apart  from  the  evidence  in  the  "Prieure  documents'  of  his 

survival.  The  whole  issue  seems  to  have  been  lost  in  "the  mists  of 

time',  and  no  one  seems  to  have  been  much  concerned  about  it  except,  of 

course,  for  the 

Prieure  de  Sion.  In  any  case  Sion  appeared  to  be  privy  to  certain  information  which  was 

not  available  elsewhere;  or  was  deemed  of  too  little  consequence  to  warrant  much 

investigation;  or  was  deliberately  suppressed. 

It  is  hardly  surprising  that  no  account  of  Sigisbert's  fate  has  been 

filtered  down  to  us.  There  was  no  publicly  accessible  account  even 

of 

Dagobert  until  the  seventeenth  century.  At  some  point  during  the 

Middle 

Ages  a  systematic  attempt  was  apparently  made  to  erase  Dagobert  from 

history,  to  deny  that  he  ever  existed.  Today  Dagobert  II  can  be  found 

in  any  encyclopedia.  Until  1646,  however,  there  was  no  acknowledgment 

whatever  that  he  had  ever  lived. zs  Any  list  or  genealogy  of  French 

rulers  compiled  before  1646  simply  omits  him,  jumping  (despite  the 

flagrant  inconsistency)  from  Dagobert  I  to  Dagobert  III  one  of  the 

last 

Merovingian  monarchs,  who  died  in  715.  And  not  until  1655  was  Dagobert  II  reinstated  in 

accepted  lists  of  French  kings.  Given  this  process  of  eradication,  we  were  not  unduly 

astonished  at  the  dearth  of  information  relating  to  Sigisbert.  And  we  could  not  but  suspect 

that  whatever  information  did  exist  had  been  deliberately  suppressed. 

But  why,  we  wondered,  should  Dagobert  II  have  been  excised  from  history? 

What  was  being  concealed  by  such  an  excision?  Why  should  one  wish  to 

deny  the  very  existence  of  a  man?  One  possibility,  of  course,  is  to 

negate  thereby  the  existence  of  his  heirs.  If  Dagobert  never  lived, 


266 


Sigisbert  cannot  have  lived  either.  But  why  should  it  have  been 

important,  as  late  as  the  seventeenth  century,  to  deny  that  Sigisbert  had  ever  lived? 

Unless  he  had  indeed  survived,  and  his  descendants  were  still  regarded  as  a  threat. 

It  seemed  to  us  that  we  were  clearly  dealing  with  some  sort  of  'cover-up'. 

Quite  patently  there  were  vested  interests  which  had  something  of  import  to  lose  if 

knowledge  of  Sigisbert's  survival  were  made  public.  In  the  ninth  century  and  perhaps  as 

late  as  the  Crusades,  these  interests  would  seem  to  have  been  the  Roman  Church  and 

the  French  royal  line.  But  why  should  the  issue  have  continued  to  matter  as  late  as  the 

age  of  Louis  XIV?  It  would  surely  have  been  an  academic  point  by  then,  for  three  French 

dynasties  had  come  and  gone,  while  Protestantism  had  broken  Roman  hegemony. 

Unless  there  was  indeed  something  very  special  about  the  Merovingian  blood.  Not 

'magical  properties',  but  something  else  -something  that  retained  its  explosive  potency 

even  after  superstitions  about  magical  blood  had  fallen  by  the  wayside. 

Prince  Guillem  de  Gellone,  Comte  de  Razes 

According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  Sigisbert  IV,  on  the  death  of  his 

father,  was  rescued  by  his  sister  and  smuggled  southwards  to  the  domain 

of  his  mother  the  Visigoth  princess,  Giselle  de  Razes.  He  is  said  to 

have  arrived  in  the  Languedoc  in  681  and,  at  some  point  shortly 

thereafter,  to  have  adopted  or  inherited  his  uncle's  titles,  duke  of 

Razes  and  count  of 

Rhedae.  He  is  also  said  to  have  adopted  the  surname,  or  nickname,  of  "Plant-Ard' 

(subsequently  Plantard)  from  the  appellation  'rejeton  ardent'  'ardently  flowering  shoot'  of 

the  Merovingian  vine.  Under  this  name,  and  under  the  titles  acquired  from  his  uncle,  he  is 

said  to  have  perpetuated  his  lineage.  And  by  886  one  branch  of  that  lineage  is  said  to 

have  culminated  in  a  certain  Bernard  Plantavelu  apparently  derived  from  Plant-and  or 

Plantard  whose  son  became  the  first  duke  of  Aquitaine. 

As  far  as  we  could  ascertain,  no  independent  historian  either  confirmed 


267 


or  disputed  these  assertions.  The  whole  matter  was  simply  ignored. But  the  circumstantial 

evidence  argued  persuasively  that  Sigisbert  did  indeed  survive  to  perpetuate  his  lineage. 

The  assiduous  eradication  of  Dagobert  from  history  lends  credence  to 

this  conclusion.  By  denying  his  existence,  any  line  of  descent  from 

him  would  have  been  invalidated.  This  constitutes  a  motive  for  an 

otherwise  inexplicable  action.  Among  the  other  fragments  of  evidence 

is  a  charter,  dated  718,  which  pertains  to  the  foundation  of  a 

monastery  a  few  miles  from  Rennes-leChateau  by  "Sigebert,  Comte  de 

Rhedae  and  his  wife, 

Magdala'.z'  Apart  from  this  charter  nothing  is  heard  of  the  Rhedae  or  Razes  titles  for 

another  century.  When  one  of  them  reappears,  however,  it  does  so  in  an  extremely 

interesting  context. 

By  742  there  was  an  independent  and  fully  autonomous  state  in  the  south 

of 

France  a  princedom  according  to  some  accounts,  a  fully  fledged  kingdom  according  to 

others.  Documentation  is  sketchy  and  history  is  vague  about  it  most  historians,  in  fact,  are 

unaware  of  its  existence  but  there  is  no  question  of  its  reality.  It  was  officially  recognised 

by  Charlemagne  and  his  successors,  and  by  the  caliph  of  Baghdad  and  the  Islamic  world. 

It  was  grudgingly  recognised  by  the  Church,  some  of  whose  lands  it  confiscated. 

And  it  survived  until  the  late  ninth  century. 

Sometime  between  759  and  768  the  ruler  of  this  state  -which  included 

the 

Razes  and  Rennes-leChateau  was  officially  pronounced  a  king.  Despite 

Rome's  disapprobation,  he  was  recognised  as  such  by  the  Carolingians,  to  whom  he 

pledged  himself  as  vassal.  In  existing  accounts  he  figures  most  frequently  under  the 

name  of  Theodoric,  or  Thierry.  And  most  modern  scholars  regard  him  as  being  of 

Merovingian  descent  .z8  There  is  no  definitive  evidence  from  where  such  descent  might 

have  derived.  It  might  well  have  derived  from  Sigisbert.  In  any  case,  there  is  no  question 

that  by  790  Theodoric's  son,  Guillem  de  Gellone,  held  the  title  of  count  of  Razes  the  title 

Sigisbert  is  said  to  have  possessed  and  passed  on  to  his  descendants. 

Guillem  de  Gellone  was  one  of  the  most  famous  men  of  his  time,  so  much 

so,  indeed,  that  his  historical  reality  -like  that  of  Charlemagne  and 

Godfroi  de  Bouillon  has  been  obscured  by  legend.  Before  the  epoch  of 

the 


268 


Crusades,  there  were  at  least  six  major  epic  poems  composed  about  him, 

chansons  de  gqste  similar  to  the  famous  Chanson  de 

Roland.  In  The  Divine  Comedy  Dante  accorded  him  a  uniquely  exalted  status. 

But  even  before  Dante,  Guillem  had  again  become  an  object  of  literary 

attention.  In  the  early  thirteenth  century  he  figured  as  the 

protagonist  of 

Willehalm,  an  unfinished  epic  romance  composed  by  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach  whose 

most  famous  work,  Parzival,  is  probably  the  most  important  of  all  romances  dealing  with 

the  mysteries  of  the  Holy  Grail. 

It  seemed  to  us  somewhat  curious  at  first  that  Wolfram  -all  of  whose 

other  work  deals  with  the  Grail,  the  "Grail  family'  and  the  lineage  of 

the  "Grail  family'  should  suddenly  devote  himself  to  so  radically 

different  a  theme  as  Guillem  de 

Gellone.  On  the  other  hand,  Wolfram  stated  in  another  poem  that  the  "Grail  castle',  abode 

of  the  "Grail  family',  was  situated  in  the  Pyrenees  in  what,  at  the  beginning  of  the  ninth 

century,  was  Guillem  de  Gellone's  domain. 

Guillem  maintained  a  close  rapport  with  Charlemagne.  His  sister,  in  fact,  was  married  to 

one  of  Charlemagne's  sons,  thus  establishing  a. dynastic  link  with  the  imperial  blood.  And 

Guillem  himself  was  one  of  Charlemagne's  most  important  commanders  in  the  incessant 

warfare  against  the  Moors.  In  803,  shortly  after  Charlemagne's  coronation  as  Holy 

Roman  Emperor,  Guillem  captured  Barcelona,  doubling  his  own  territory  and  extending 

his  influence  across  the  Pyrenees.  So  grateful  was  Charlemagne  for  his  services  that  his 

principality  was  confirmed  by  the  emperor  as  a  permanent  institution.  The  charter  ratifying 

this  has  been  lost  or  destroyed,  but  there  is  abundant  testimony  to  its  existence. 

Independent  and  unimpugnable  authorities  have  provided  detailed 

genealogies  of  Guillem  de  Gellone's  line  his  family  and  descendants. z9 

These  sources,  however,  provide  no  indication  of  Guillem's  antecedents, 

except  for  his  father,  Theodoric.  In  short,  the  real  origins  of  the 

family  were  shrouded  in  mystery.  And  contemporary  scholars  and 

historians  are  generally  somewhat  puzzled  about  the  enigmatic 

appearance,  as  if  by  spontaneous  combustion,  of  so  influential  a  noble 

house.  But  one  thing,  at  any  rate,  is  certain.  By  886  the  line  of 

Guillem  de  Gellone  culminated  in  a  certain  Bernard 


269 


Plantavelu,  who  established  the  duchy  of  Aquitaine.  In  other  words 

Guillem's  line  culminated  in  precisely  the  same  individual  as  the  line  ascribed  by  the 

"Prieur6  documents'  to  Sigisbert  IV  and  his  descendants. 

We  were  tempted,  of  course,  to  jump  to  conclusions,  and  use  the 

genealogies  in  the  "Prieur6  documents'  to  bridge  the  gap  left  by 

accepted  history.  We  were  tempted  to  assume  that  the  elusive 

progenitors  of  Guillem  de  Gellone  were  Dagobert  II,  and  Sigisbert  IV 

and  the  main  line  of  the  deposed 

Merovingian  dynasty  the  line  cited  in  the  "Prieur6  documents'  under  the  name  Plant-Ard  or 

Plantard. 

Unfortunately  we  could  not  do  so.  Given  the  confused  state  of  existing  records,  we  could 

not  definitively  establish  the  precise  connection  between  the  Plantard  line  and  the  line  of 

Guillem  de  Gellone.  They  might  indeed  have  been  one  and  the  same.  On  the  other  hand, 

they  might  have  intermarried  at  some  point.  What  remained  certain,  however,  was  that 

both  lines,  by  886,  had  culminated  in  Bernard  Plantavelu  and  the  dukes  of  Aquitaine. 

Although  they  did  not  always  match  precisely  in  dating  and  translation  of  names,  the 

genealogies  connected  with  Guillem  de  Gellone  did  constitute  a  certain  independent 

confirmation  for  the  genealogies  in  the  "Prieur6  documents'.  We  could  thus  tentatively 

accept,  in  the  absence  of  any  contradictory  evidence,  that  the  Merovingian  bloodline  did 

continue,  more  or  less  as  the  "Prieur6  documents'  maintained.  We  could  tentatively 

accept  that  Sigisbert  did  survive  his  father's  murder,  did  adopt  the  family  name  of  Plantard 

and,  as  count  of  Razes,  did  perpetuate  his  father's  lineage. 

Prince  Ursus 

By  886,  of  course,  the  "flowering  shoot  of  the  Merovingian  vine'  had  blossomed  into  a 

large  and  complicated  family  tree.  Bernard  Plantavelu  and  the  dukes  of  Aquitaine 

constitute  one  branch.  There  were  other  branches  as  well.  Thus  the  "Prieur6  documents' 

declare  that  Sigisbert  IV's  grandson,  Sigisbert  VI,  was  known  by  the  name  of  "Prince 

Ursus'. 

Between  877  and  879  "Prince  Ursus'  is  said  to  have  been  officially 

proclaimed  "King  Ursus'.  Aided  by  two  nobles  Bernard  dAuvergne  and 


270 


the  marquis  of  Gothic  he  is  said  to  have  undertaken  an  insurrection 

against  Louis  II  of  France  in  an  attempt  to  regain  his  rightful  heritage. 

Independent  historians  confirm  that  such  an  insurrection  did  indeed  occur  between  877 

and  879.  These  same  historians  refer  to  Bernard  dAuvergne  and  the  marquis  of  Gothic. 

The  leader,  or  instigator,  of  the  insurrection  is  not  specifically  named  as  Sigisbert  VI.  But 

there  are  references  to  an  individual  known  as  "Prince  Ursus'.  Moreover,  "Prince  Ursus'  is 

known  to  have  been  involved  in  a  curious  and  elaborate  ceremony  in  Nimes,  at  which  five 

hundred  assembled  ecclesiastics  chanted  the  Te  Deum.3  From  all  accounts  of  it,  this 

ceremony  would  seem  to  have  been  a  coronation.  It  may  well  have  been  the  coronation 

to  which  the  "Prieure  documents'  alluded  the  proclamation  of  "Prince  Ursus'  as  king. 

Once  again,  the  "Prieure  documents'  received  independent  support.  Once 

again,  they  seemed  to  draw  on  information  unobtainable  elsewhere 

information  which  supplemented  and  sometimes  even  helped  explain 

caesuras  in  accepted  history.  In  this  case,  they  had  apparently  told 

us  who  the  elusive  "Prince  Ursus'  actually  was  -the  lineal  descendant, 

through 

Sigisbert  IV,  of  the  murdered  Dagobert  II.  And  the  insurrection,  of 

which  historians  had  hitherto  made  no  sense,  could  now  be  seen  as  a 

perfectly  comprehensible  attempt  by  the  deposed  Merovingian  dynasty  to 

regain  its  heritage  the  heritage  conferred  upon  it  by  Rome  through  the 

pact  with 

Clovis,  and  then  subsequently  betrayed. 

According  to  both  the  "Prieure  documents'  and  independent  sources,  the 

insurrection  failed,  "Prince  Ursus'  and  his  supporters  being  defeated 

at  a  battle  near  Poitiers  in  881 .  With  this  setback,  the  Plantard 

family  is  said  to  have  lost  its  possessions  in  the  south  of  France 

although  it  still  clung  to  the  now  purely  titular  status  of  duke  of 

Rhedae  and  count  of 

Razes.  "Prince  Ursus'  is  said  to  have  died  in  Brittany,  while  his  line 

became  allied  by  marriage  with  the  Breton  ducal  house.  By  the  late 

ninth  century,  then,  the  Merovingian  blood  had  flowed  into  the  duchies 

of  both 

Brittany  and  Aquitaine. 

In  the  years  that  followed,  the  family  including  Alain,  later  duke  of 

Brittany  is  said  to  have  sought  refuge  in  England,  establishing  an 


271 


English  branch  called  "Planta'.  3  The  Merovingian  Dynasty  The  Counts 

of  Rues 

From  Henri  Lobineau's  work,  based  on  work  by  Abbe  Pichon  and  Dr. 

Herr& 

Sourer  Sourer  I  Mrmvmgun  I  I  Vth  I 

DAGO  BERT  II  GISELLE  DE  RAZES 

7.d4,ehrcr  of  Sams  Wdfnd  of  Yo  r4  Lrvm"  r  Adar 

IRmno-k-Ch3rcau) 

SIG6SBERT  IV  =MAGDALA 

676-758 

Coum  f  Razbs 

"Ardenr  Shooi.  Nrw  sour .  Ned  "Les  ~lam-Ard  Cahlrd  71 sT  HMmrt 

Princes'  brcauu  'hr'  uMr.  rtfuge  n  rhr  Avms  hill  Rl  Mae  dung  hr 

SI("ISBERT  V5anan  mvauon.  Thr  carted  rombuonr  695/698  -  767/768 

ofrhert  common  gray  oday  m  rhr 

Coum  of  Razesarum  ar  Rmnrs-k-Charra~ 

OLBABERAIII 

(Alda?i  715-70 

Count  of  Razes 

7  marnagcs  GUILLAUMEOLIBA  0~unry(  Rax2s 

ROM  ILLE  -BERA  IVODfOLIBA-RICHILDF  755-813  d.  839  <:ounr  f  Raze. 

Foooded,  Abbey  of  Alrr 

1-OLIBA.AIFRFD 

Cuuns  of  Car.assonne  <.oum  of  Rame  ggl%g7D/R77  d  9U6 

At  ARIC.   ROIAUDEARGILAREVERGF  ~  d.  855"75-83  ;  T 

Rccrt.rd  Bl  anchrfort  noun  of  R  x  hrr,  dowry.  715 

AUREOLBERAV-. 

so~rtr  of  rhr  Blan,hcfort794-861 )  family  (  ounr  of  Raxes 

HILDERIC  1  BERNARD 

sourer  c  un  dr  of  Razes  'Tlama-vela'  or  Carohnyan  I  86'  "Plama-Plus' 

CHARLES  a  L.rum  of  Raxh  the  Bald  of  Frame  d.  877 

Esrabhshrd 

T  D-h,  of  Aqurtamr 

R07ILDF-SIGISBERTVI 

"Prmcc  Ursui  d.  8841885 

Laar  Counr  of  Ram 

Mmuvmgun  drumr 


272 


L-  ..Ld  1 .  after  fail.,  of  opn  agn  Louu  II  ~n  ggg  Independent 

authorities  again  confirm  that  Alain,  his  family  and  entourage,  fled 

from  the  Vikings  to  England.  According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  one 

of  the  English  branch  of  the  family,  listed  as  Bera  VI,  was  nicknamed 

'the 

Architect'.  He  and  his  descendants,  having  found  a  haven  in  England 

under 

King  Athelstan,  are  said  to  have  practised  'the  art  of  building'  -  a 

seemingly  enigmatic  reference.  Interestingly  enough,  Masonic  sources 

date  the  origin  of  Freemasonry  in  England  from  the  reign  of  King 

Athelstan.3' 

Could  the  Merovingian  bloodline,  we  wondered,  in  addition  to  its  claim 

to  the  French  throne,  be  in  some  way  connected  with  something  at  the 

core  of 

Freemasonry? 

The  Grail  Family 

The  Middle  Ages  abound  with  a  mythology  as  rich  and  resonant  as  those  of  ancient 

Greece  and  Rome.  Some  of  this  mythology  pertains,  although  wildly  exaggerated  in  form, 

to  actual  historical  personages  to  Arthur,  to  Roland  and  Charlemagne,  to  Rodrigo  Diaz  of 

Vivar,  popularly  known  as  El  Cid.  Other  myths  like  those  relating  to  the  Grail,  for  example 

would  seem  at  first  to  rest  on  a  more  tenuous  foundation. 

Among  the  most  popular  and  evocative  of  medieval  myths  is  that  of 

Lohengrin,  the  "Swan  Knight'.  On  the  one  hand  it  is  closely  linked  with  the  fabulous  Grail 

romances;  on  the  other  it  cites  specific  historical  personages.  In  its  mingling  of  fact  and 

fantasy  it  may  well  be  unique.  And  through  such  works  as  Wagner's  opera  it  continues  to 

exert  its  archetypal  appeal  even  today. 

According  to  medieval  accounts,  Lohengrin  sometimes  called  Helias, 

implying  solar  associations  was  a  scion  of  the  elusive  and  mysterious 

"Grail  family'.  In  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach's  poem,  he  is  in  fact  the 

son  of 

Parzival,  the  supreme'  Knight  of  the  Grail'.  One  day,  in  the  sacred 

temple  or  castle  of  the  Grail  at  Munsalvaesche,  Lohengrin  is  said  to 

have  heard  the  chapel  bell  tolling  without  the  intervention  of  human 

hands  a  signal  that  his  aid  was  urgently  required  somewhere  in  the 

world.  It  was  required,  predictably  enough,  by  a  damsel  in  distress 


273 


the  duchess  of  Brabant32  according  to  some  sources,  the  duchess  of 

Bouillon  according  to  others.  The  lady  desperately  needed  a  champion,  and  Lohengrin 

hastened  to  her  rescue  in  a  boat  drawn  by  heraldic  swans.  In  single  combat  he  defeated 

the  duchess's  persecutor,  then  married  the  lady.  At  their  nuptials,  however,  he  issued  a 

stringent  warning.  Never  was  his  bride  to  query  him  about  his  origins  or  ancestry,  his 

background  or  the  place  whence  he  came.  And  for  some  years  the  lady  obeyed  her 

husband's  edict.  At  last,  however,  goaded  to  fatal  curiosity  by  the  scurrilous  insinuations 

of  rivals,  she  presumed  to  ask  the  forbidden  question. 

Thereupon,  Lohengrin  was  compelled  to  depart,  vanishing  in  his  swan  drawn  boat  into  the 

sunset.  And  behind  him,  with  his  wife,  he  left  a  child  of  uncertain  lineage.  According  to 

the  various  accounts,  this  child  was  either  the  father  or  the  grandfather  of  Godfroi  de 

Bouillon. 

It  is  difficult  for  the  modern  mind  to  appreciate  the  magnitude  of 

Godfroi's  status  in  popular  consciousness  -not  only  in  his  own  time  but 

even  as  late  as  the  seventeenth  century.  Today,  when  one  thinks  of 

the 

Crusades,  one  thinks  of  Richard  Coeur  de  Lion,  King  John,  perhaps  Louis  IX  (Saint  Louis) 

or  Frederick  Barbarossa.  But  until  relatively  recently,  none  of  these  individuals  enjoyed 

Godfroi's  prestige  or  acclaim.  Godfroi,  leader  of  the  First  Crusade,  was  the  supreme 

popular  hero,  the  hero  par  excellence.  It  was  Godfroi  who  inaugurated  the  Crusades.  It 

was  Godfroi  who  captured  Jerusalem  from  the  Saracens.  It  was  Godfroi  who  rescued 

Christ's  sepulchre  from  infidel  hands.  It  was  Godfroi,  above  all  others,  who,  in  people's 

imaginations,  reconciled  the  ideals  of  high  chivalric  enterprise  and  fervent  Christian  piety. 

Not  surprisingly,  therefore,  Godfroi  became  the  object  of  a  cult  which  persisted  long  after 

his  death. 

Given  this  exalted  status,  it  is  understandable  that  Godfroi  should  be 

credited  with  all  manner  of  illustrious  mythical  pedigrees.  It  is  even 

understandable  that  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach,  and  other  medieval 

romanciers,  should  link  him  directly  with  the  Grail  should  depict  him 

as  a  lineal  descendant  of  the  mysterious  "Grail  family'.  And  such 

fabulous  pedigrees  are  rendered  even  more  comprehensible  by  the  fact 

that  Godfroi's  true  lineage  is  obscure.  History  remains  uncomfortably 


274 


uncertain  about  his  ancestry.33  The  Prieure  documents'  furnished  us 

with  the  most  plausible  perhaps,  indeed,  the  first  plausible  -genealogy  of  Godfroi  de 

Bouillon  that  has  yet  come  to  light.  As  far  as  this  genealogy  could  be  checked  and  much 

of  it  could  be  it  proved  accurate.  We  found  no  evidence  to  contradict  it,  much  to  support  it; 

and  it  convincingly  bridged  a  number  of  perplexing  historical  gaps. 

According  to  the  genealogy  in  the  "Prieure  documents',  Godfroi  de 

Bouillon  by  virtue  of  his  great-grandmother,  who  married  Hugues  de 

Plantard  in  1009  was  a  lineal  descendant  of  the  Plantard  family.  In 

other  words 

Godfroi  was  of  Merovingian  blood,  directly  descended  from  Dagobert 

II, 

Sigisbert  IV  and  the  line  of  Merovingian  "lost  kings'  -  "les  rois  perdus'. 

For  four  centuries  the  Merovingian  blood  royal  appears  to  have  flowed  through  gnarled 

and  numerous  family  trees.  At  last,  through  a  process  analogous  to  the  grafting  of  vines 

in  viticulture,  it  would  seem  to  have  borne  fruit  in  Godfroi  de  Bouillon,  Duke  of  Lorraine. 

And  here,  in  the  house  of  Lorraine,  it  established  a  new  patrimony. 

This  revelation  cast  a  significant  new  light  on  the  Crusades.  We  could 

now  perceive  the  Crusades  from  a  new  perspective,  and  discern  in  them 

something  more  than  the  symbolic  gesture  of  reclaiming  Christ's 

supulchre  from  the 

Saracens. 

In  his  own  eyes,  as  well  as  those  of  his  supporters,  Godfroi  would  have  been  more  than 

duke  of  Lorraine.  He  would,  in  fact,  have  been  a  rightful  king  a  legitimate  claimant  of  the 

dynasty  deposed  with  Dagobert  II  in  679.  But  if  Godfroi  was  a  rightful  king,  he  was  also  a 

king  without  a  kingdom;  and  the  Capetian  dynasty  in  France,  supported  by  the  Roman 

Church,  was  by  then  too  well  entrenched  to  be  dethroned. 

What  can  one  do  if  one  is  a  king  without  a  kingdom?  Perhaps  find  a 

kingdom, 

Or  create  a  kingdom.  The  most  precious  kingdom  in  the  entire  world 

Palestine,  the  Holy  Land,  the  soil  trodden  by  Jesus  himself.  Would  not 

the  ruler  of  such  a  kingdom  be  comparable  to  any  in  Europe?  And  would 

he  not,  in  presiding  over  that  most  sacred  of  earthly  sites,  obtain 

sweet  revenge  on  the  Church  which  betrayed  his  ancestors  four  centuries 


275 


276 


From  the  work  of  Henri  Lobineau  (Henri  de  Unoncourt) 

Ps  Urd  $11/115 

SNaORT  V7  ROTD  GHRIAURM  O  IDOPIE  4.91  7  ~Sw,rCals~ 

Wd  a  End  91  ,  ALAIN  the  G-'  r~widYVq~ahwy  491 17 

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BmmMATHUEDOIHAVOIRE  d  952  ~V->  919  -897-1 

Count  d  Puhee 

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GOZFIONd  IMI 

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277 


MATIEUOE-  sTEP~EIB~EN  d  EIIAI  The  Elusive  Mystery 

Gradually  certain  pieces  of  the  puzzle  were  beginning  to  fall  into 

place.  If 

Godfroi  was  of  Merovingian  blood,  a  number  of  seemingly  disconnected  fragments  ceased 

to  be  disconnected  and  assumed  a  coherent  continuity. 

We  could  thus  explain  the  emphasis  accorded  such  apparently  disparate 

elements  as  the  Merovingian  dynasty  and  the  Crusades,  Dagobert  II  and 

Godfroi, 

RennesleChateau,  the  Knights  Templar,  the  house  of  Lorraine,  the 

Prieure  de 

Sion.  We  could  even  trace  the  Merovingian  bloodlines  up  to  the  present 

day  to  Alain  Poher,  to  Henri  de  Montpezat  (consort  of  the  queen  of 

Denmark),  to  Pierre  Plantard  de  Saint-Clair,  to  Otto  von  Habsburg, 

titular  duke  of 

Lorraine  and  king  of  Jerusalem. 

And  yet  the  really  crucial  question  continued  to  elude  us.  We  still  could  not  see  why  the 

Merovingian  bloodline  should  be  so  inexplicably  important  today.  We  still  could  not  see 

why  its  claim  should  be  in  any  way  relevant  to  contemporary  affairs,  or  why  it  should 

command  the  allegiance  of  so  many  distinguished  men  through  the  centuries.  We  still 

could  not  see  why  a  modern  Merovingian  monarchy,  however  technically  legitimate  it 

might  be,  warranted  such  urgent  endorsement. 


278 


Quite  clearly  we  were  overlooking  something.  10  The  Exiled  Tribe 

Could  there  be  something  special  about  the  Merovingian  bloodline  something  more  than 

an  academic,  technical  legitimacy?  Could  there  really  be  something  which,  in  some  way, 

might  genuinely  matter  to  people  today?  Could  there  be  something  that  might  affect, 

perhaps  even  alter,  existing  social,  political  or  religious  institutions?  These  questions 

continued  to  nag  at  us.  As  yet,  however,  there  appeared  to  be  no  answer  to  them. 

Once  again  we  sifted  through  the  compilation  of  "Prieure  documents',  and  especially  the 

all-important  Dossiers  secrets.  We  re-read  passages  which  had  meant  nothing  to  us 

before.  Now  they  made  sense,  but  they  did  not  serve  to  explain  the  mystery,  nor  to 

answer  what  had  now  become  the  critical  questions.  On  the  other  hand  there  were  other 

passages  whose  relevance  was  still  unclear  to  us.  These  passages  by  no  means 

resolved  the  enigma:  but,  if  nothing  else,  they  set  us  thinking  along  certain  lines  lines 

which  eventually  proved  to  be  of  paramount  significance. 

As  we  had  already  discovered,  the  Merovingians  themselves,  according  to 

their  own  chroniclers,  claimed  descent  from  ancient  Troy.  But 

according  to  certain  of  the  "Prieure  documents'  the  Merovingian 

pedigree  was  older  than  the  siege  of  Troy.  According  to  certain  of  the 

Prieure  documents',  the 

Merovingian  pedigree  could  in  fact  be  traced  back  to  the  Old  Testament. 

Among  the  genealogies  in  the  Dossiers  secrets,  for  example,  there  were 

numerous  footnotes  and  annotations.  Many  of  these  referred 

specifically  to  one  of  the  twelve  tribes  of  ancient  Israel,  the  Tribe 

of  Benjamin.  One  such  reference  cites,  and  emphasises,  three  Biblical 

passages  -Deuteronomy  33, 

Joshua  1 8  and  judges  20  and  21 . 

Deuteronomy  33  contains  the  blessing  pronounced  by  Moses  on  the 


279 


patriarchs  of  each  of  the  twelve  tribes.  Of  Benjamin,  Moses  says, 

"The  beloved  of  the  Lord  shall  dwell  in  safety  by  him;  and  the  Lord 

shall  cover  him  all  the  day  long,  and  he  shall  dwell  between  his 

shoulders."  (33:12)  In  other  words  Benjamin  and  his  descendants  were 

singled  out  for  a  very  special  and  exalted  blessing.  That  much,  at  any 

rate,  was  clear.  We  were,  of  course,  puzzled  by  the  promise  of  the 

Lord  dwelling  'between  Benjamin's  shoulders'.  Should  we  associate  it 

with  the  legendary 

Merovingian  birthmark  the  red  cross  between  the  shoulders?  The 

connection  seemed  somewhat  far-fetched.  On  the  other  hand,  there  were 

other  clearer  similarities  between  Benjamin  in  the  Old  Testament  and 

the  subject  of  our  investigation.  According  to  Robert  Graves,  for 

example,  the  day  sacred  to 

Benjamin  was  December  23rd'  -  Dagobert's  feast  day.  Among  the  three  clans  which 

comprised  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin,  there  was  the  clan  of  Ahiram  which  might  in  some 

obscure  way  pertain  to  Hiram,  builder  of  the  Temple  of  Solomon  and  central  figure  in 

Masonic  tradition.  Hiram's  most  devoted  disciple,  moreover,  was  named  Benoni;  and 

Benoni,  interestingly  enough,  was  the  name  originally  conferred  upon  the  infant  Benjamin 

by  his  mother,  Rachel,  before  she  died. 

The  second  Biblical  reference  in  the  Dossiers  secrets,  to  Joshua  18,  is 

rather  more  clear.  It  deals  with  the  arrival  of  Moses's  people  in 

the 

Promised  Land  and  the  apportionment  to  each  of  the  twelve  tribes  of 

particular  tracts  of  territory.  According  to  this  apportionment,  the 

territory  of  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin  included  what  subsequently  became 

the  sacred  city  of  Jerusalem.  Jerusalem,  in  other  words,  even  before 

it  became  the  capital  of  David  and  Solomon,  was  the  allocated 

birthright  of  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin.  According  to  Joshua  18:28,  the 

birthright  of  the  Benjamites  encompassed  "Zelah,  Eleph  and  Jebusi, 

which  is  Jerusalem,  Gibeath  and 

Kirjath;  fourteen  cities  with  their  villages.  This  is  the  inheritance  of  the  children  of 

Benjamin  according  to  their  families." 

The  third  Biblical  passage  cited  by  the  Dossiers  secrets  involves  a 

fairly  complex  sequipnce  of  events.  A  Levite,  travelling  through 

Benjamite  territory,  is  assaulted,  and  his  concubine  ravished,  by 

worshippers  of 

Belial  a  variant  of  the  Sumerian  Mother  Goddess,  known  as  Ishtar  by 

the 

Babylonians  and  Astarte  by  the  Phoenicians. 


280 


Calling  representatives  of  the  twelve  tribes  to  witness,  the  Levite 

demands  vengeance  for  the  atrocity;  and  at  a  council,  the  Benjamites  are  instructed  to 

deliver  the  malefactors  to  justice.  One  might  expect  the  Benjamites  to  comply  readily.  For 

some  reason,  however,  they  do  not,  and  undertake,  by  force  of  arms,  to  protect  the  "sons 

of  Belial'. 

The  result  is  a  bitter  and  bloody  war  between  the  Benjamites  and  the 

remaining  eleven  tribes.  In  the  course  of  hostilities  a  curse  is 

pronounced  by  the  latter  on  any  man  who  gives  his  daughter  to  a  Beni 

amite.  When  the  war  is  over,  however,  and  the 

Benjamites  virtually  exterminated,  the  victorious  Israelites  repent  of  their  malediction 

which,  however,  cannot  be  retracted: 

Now  the  men  of  Israel  had  sworn  in  Mizpeh,  saying,  There  shall  not  any 

of  us  give  his  daughter  unto  Benjamin  to  wife.  And  the  people  came  to 

the  house  of  God,  and  abode  there  till  even  before  God,  and  lifted  up 

their  voices,  and  wept  sore;  And  said,  O  Lord  God  of  Israel,  why  is 

this  come  to  pass  in 

Israel,  that  there  should  be  today  one  tribe  lacking  in  Isreal? 

(Judges  21:1-3) 

A  few  verses  later,  the  lament  is  repeated: 

And  the  children  of  Israel  repented  them  for  Benjamin  their  brother,  and  said,  There  is  one 

tribe  cut  off  from  Israel  this  day.  How  shall  we  do  for  wives  for  them  that  remain,  seeing 

we  have  sworn  by  the  Lord  that  we  will  not  give  them  of  our  daughters  to  wives?  (Judges 

21:6-7) 

And  yet  again: 

And  the  people  repented  them  for  Benjamin,  because  that  the  Lord  had 

made  a  breach  in  the  tribes  of  Israel.  Then  the  elders  of  the 

congregation  said, 

How  shall  we  do  for  wives  for  them  that  remain,  seeing  the  women  are 

destroyed  out  of  Benjamin?  And  they  said,  There  must  be  an  inheritance 

for  them  that  be  escaped  out  of  Benjamin,  that  a  tribe  be  not  destroyed 

out  of 

Israel.  Howbeit  we  may  not  give  them  wives  of  our  daughters:  for  the 

children  of  Israel  have  sworn,  saying,  Cursed  be  he  that  giveth  a  wife 

to 

Benjamin.  (Judges  21:15-18) 

Confronted  by  the  possible  extinction  of  an  entire  tribe,  the  elders 


281 


quickly  devise  a  solution.  At  Shiloh,  in  Bethel,  there  is  to  be  a 

festival  shortly;  and  the  women  of  Shiloh  -whose  menfolk  had  remained  neutral  in  the  war 

are  to  be  considered  fair  game.  The  surviving  Benjamites  are  instructed  to  go  to  Shiloh 

and  wait  in  ambush  in  the  vineyards.  When  the  women  of  the  town  congregate  to  dance 

in  the  forthcoming  festival,  the  Benjamites  are  to  pounce  upon  them  and  take  them  to  wife. 

It  is  not  at  all  clear  why  the  Dossiers  secrets  insist  on  calling 

attention  to  this  passage.  But  whatever  the  reason,  the  Benjamites,  so 

far  as 

Biblical  history  is  concerned,  are  clearly  important.  Despite  the  devastation  of  the  war, 

they  quickly  recover  in  prestige,  if  not  in  numbers.  Indeed,  they  recover  so  well  that  in  1 

Samuel  they  furnish  Israel  with  her  first  king,  Saul. 

Whatever  recovery  the  Benjamites  may  have  made,  however,  the  Dossiers 

secrets  imply  that  the  war  over  the  followers  of  Belial  was  a  crucial 

turning  point.  1t  would  seem  that  in  the  wake  of  this  conflict  many, 

if  not  most,  Benjamites  went  into  exile.  Thus,  there  is  a  portentous 

note  in  the 

Dossiers  secrets,  in  capital  letters: 

ONE  DAY  THE  DESCENDANTS  OF  BENJAMIN  LEFT  THEIR 

COUNTRY;  CERTAIN  REMAINED;  TWO  THOUSAND  YEARS  LATER 

GODFROI  VI  [DE  BOUILLON]  BECAME  KING  OF  JERUSALEM  AND 

FOUNDED  THE  ORDRE  DE  SION.Z 

At  first  there  appeared  to  be  no  connection  between  these  apparent  non 

sequiturs.  When  we  assembled  the  diverse  and  fragmentary  references  in 

the 

Dossiers  secrets,  however,  a  coherent  story  began  to  emerge.  According 

to  this  account'  most  Benjamites  did  go  into  exile.  Their  exile 

supposedly  took  them  to  Greece,  to  the  central  Peloponnese  to  Arcadia, 

in  short,  where  they  supposedly  became  aligned  with  the  Arcadian  royal 

line.  Towards  the  advent  of  the  Christian  era,  they  are  then  said  to 

have  migrated  up  the 

Danube  and  the  Rhine,  intermarrying  with  certain  Teutonic  tribes  and  eventually 

engendering  the  Sicambrian  Franks  the  immediate  forebears  of  the  Merovingians. 

According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  then,  the  Merovingians  were 

descended,  via  Arcadia,  from  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin.  In  other  words 

the 

Merovingians,  as  well  as  their  subsequent  descendants  the  bloodlines 

of 


282 


Plantard  and  Lorraine,  for  example  were  ultimately  of  Map  8Judaea, 
Showing  the  only  Avenue  of  Escape  for  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin 
Sidnn 

Moun,  Lebanon 
-  Mourn  Hcrmon 

C, 

J~ 

J~' 

EAST  MANASSEH 

ISSACHAR 

WEST  MANASSEH 

TO  ARCADIA  IN  ~% 

GREECE 

_EPHRAIM 

_  uetbei 

TO"  nr 

BENJAMIN 

A. he  d.~  ~)qN 

Ash4dun  ~"  ,/erusalrm 

_J 

JUDAH  Qr 

Dad  Sea 


283 


Semitic  or  Israelite  origin.  And  if  Jerusalem  was  indeed  the 

hereditary  birthright  of  the  Benjamites,  Godfroi  de  Bouillon,  in 

marching  on  the  Holy 

City,  would  in  fact  have  been  reclaiming  his  ancient  and  rightful  heritage. 

Again  it  is  significant  that  Godfroi,  alone  among  the  august  Western  princes  who 

embarked  on  the  First  Crusade,  disposed  of  all  his  property  before  his  departure  -implying 

thereby  that  he  did  not  intend  to  return  to  Europe. 

Needless  to  say,  we  had  no  way  of  ascertaining  whether  the  Merovingians  were  of 

Benjamite  origin  or  not.  The  information  in  the  "Prieure  documents',  such  as  it  was, 

related  to  too  remote;  too  obscure  a  past,  for  which  no  confirmation,  no  records  of  any  sort 

could  be  obtained. 

But  the  assertions  were  neither  particularly  unique  nor  particularly 

new.  On  the  countrary  they  had  been  around,  in  the  form  of  vague 

rumours  and  nebulous  traditions,  for  a  long  time.  To  cite  but  one 

instance,  Proust  draws  upon  them  in  his  opus;  and  more  recently,  the 

novelist  jean  d'Ormesson  suggests  a  Judaic  origin  for  certain  noble 

French  families.  And  in  1965  Roger 

Peyrefitte,  who  seems  to  like  scandal  ising  his  countrymen,  did  so  with  resounding  eclat  in 

a  novel  affirming  all  French  and  most  European  nobility  to  be  ultimately  Judaic. 

In  fact  the  argument,  although  unprovable,  is  not  altogether 

implausible,  nor  are  the  exile  and  migration  ascribed  to  the  Tribe  of 

Benjamin  in  the  "Prieure  documents'.  The  Tribe  of  Benjamin  took  up 

arms  on  behalf  of  the  followers  of  Belial  a  form  of  the  Mother  Goddess 

often  associated  with  images  of  a  bull  or  calf.  There  is  reason  to 

believe  that  the  Benjamites  themselves  revered  the  same  deity.  Indeed, 

it  is  possible  that  the  worship  of  the  Golden  Calf  in  Exodus  the 

subject,  significantly  enough,  of  one  of 

Poussin's  most  famous  paintings  may  have  been  a  specifically  Benjamite  ritual. 

Following  their  war  against  the  other  eleven  tribes  of  Israel,  Benjamites  fleeing  into  exile 

would,  of  necessity,  have  had  to  flee  westwards,  towards  the  Phoenician  coast.  The 

Phoenicians  possessed  ships  capable  of  transporting  large  numbers  of  refugees.  And 

they  would  have  been  obvious  allies  for  fugitive  Benjamites  for  they,  too,  worshipped  the 

Mother  Goddess  in  the  form  of  Astarte,  Queen  of  Heaven. 


284 


If  there  was  actually  an  exodus  of  Benjamites  from  Palestine,  one 

might  hope  to  find  some  vestigial  record  of  it.  In  Greek  myth  one  does.  There  is  the 

legend  of  King  Belus's  son,  one  Danaus,  who  arrives  in  Greece,  with  his  daughters,  by 

ship.  His  daughters  are  said  to  have  introduced  the  cult  of  the  Mother  Goddess,  which 

became  the  established  cult  of  the  Arcadians.  According  to  Robert  Graves,  the  Danaus 

myth  records  the  arrival  in  the  Peloponnesus  of  "colonists  from  Palestine'." 

Graves  states  that  King  Belus  is  in  fact  Baal,  or  Bel  or  perhaps  Belial 

from  the  Old 

Testament.  It  is  also  worthy  of  note  that  one  of  the  clans  of  the 

Tribe  of 

Benjamin  was  the  clan  of  Bela. 

In  Arcadia  the  cult  of  the  Mother  Goddess  not  only  prospered  but 

survived  longer  than  in  any  other  part  of  Greece.  It  became  associated 

with  worship  of  Demeter,  then  of  Diana  or  Artemis.  Known  regionally  as 

Arduina,  Artemis  became  tutelary  deity  of  the  Ardennes;  and  it  was  from 

the  Ardennes  that  the  Sicambrian  Franks  first  issued  into  what  is  now 

France.  The  totem  of 

Artemis  was  the  she-bear  Kallisto,  whose  son  was  Arkas,  the  bear-child  and  patron  of 

Arcadia.  And  Kallisto,  transported  to  the  heavens  by  Artemis,  became  the  constellation 

Ursa  Major,  the  Great  Bear.  There  might  thus  be  something  more  than  coincidence  in  the 

appellation  "Ursus',  applied  repeatedly  to  the  Merovingian  bloodline. 

In  any  case  there  is  other  evidence,  apart  from  mythology,  suggesting 

a 

Judaic  migration  to  Arcadia.  In  classical  times  the  region  known  as 

Arcadia  was  ruled  by  the  powerful,  militaristic  state  of  Sparta.  The 

Spartans  absorbed  much  of  the  older  Arcadian  culture;  and  indeed,  the 

legendary 

Arcadian  Lycaeus  may  in  fact  be  identified  with  Lycurgus,  who 

codified 

Spartan  Law.  On  reaching  manhood,  the  Spartans,  like  the  Merovingians, 

ascribed  a  special,  magical  significance  to  their  hair  which,  like 

the 

Merovingians,  they  wore  long.  According  to  one  authority,  "the  length 

of  hair  denoted  their  physical  vigour  and  became  a  sacred  symbol.  '4 

What  is  more,  both  books  of  Maccabees  in  the  Apocrypha  stress  the  link 

between 

Spartans  and  Jews.  Maccabees  2  speaks  of  certain  Jews  "having  embarked 

to  go  to  the  Lacedaemonians,  in  hope  of  finding  protection  there 

because  of  their  kinship. "5  And  Maccabees  1  states  explicitly,  "It  has 

been  found  in  writing  concerning  the  Spartans  and  the  Jews  that  they 


285 


are  brethren  and  are  of  the  family  of  Abraham. "6  We  could  thus 

acknowledge  at  least  the  possibility  of  a  Judaic  migration  to 

Arcadia  so  that  the  "Prieure  documents',  if  they  could  not  be  proved 

correct,  could  not  be  dismissed  either.  As  for  Semitic  influence  on 

Frankish  culture,  there  was  solid  archaeological  evidence.  Phoenician 

or 

Semitic  trade  routes  traversed  the  whole  of  southern  France,  from  Bordeaux  to  Marseilles 

and  Narbonne.  They  also  extended  up  the  Rhone.  As  early  as  700-600  B.C."  there  were 

Phoenician  settlements  not  only  along  the  French  coast  but  inland  as  well,  at  such  sites  as 

Carcassonne  and  Toulouse.  Among  the  artefacts  found  at  these  sites  were  many  of 

Semitic  origin.  This  is  hardly  surprising.  In  the  ninth  century  B.C.  the  Phoenician  kings  of 

Tyre  had  intermarried  with  the  kings  of  Israel  and  Judah,  thus  establishing  a  dynastic 

alliance  that  would  have  engendered  a  close  contact  between  their  respective  peoples. 

The  sack  of  Jerusalem  in  A.D.  70,  and  the  destruction  of  the  Temple, 

prompted  a  massive  exodus  of  Jews  from  the  Holy  Land.  Thus  the  city 

of 

Pompeii,  buried  by  the  eruption  of  Vesuvius  in  A.D.  79,  included  a  Jewish  community. 

Certain  cities  in  southern  France  Aries,  for  example,  Lunel  and  Narbonne  provided  a 

haven  for  Jewish  refugees  around  the  same  time. 

And  yet  the  influx  of  Judaic  peoples  into  Europe,  and  especially 

France,  predated  the  fall  of  Jerusalem  in  the  first  century.  In  fact 

it  had  been  in  progress  from  before  the  Christian  era.  Between  106  and 

48  B.C.  a  Jewish  colony  was  established  in  Rome.  Not  long  after 

another  such  colony  was  founded  far  up  the  Rhine,  at  Cologne.  Certain 

Roman  legions  included  contingents  of  Jewish  slaves,  who  accompanied 

their  masters  all  over 

Europe.  Many  of  these  slaves  eventually  won,  purchased  or,  in  some  other  fashion, 

obtained  their  freedom  and  formed  communities. 

In  consequence  there  are  many  specifically  Semitic  place  names 

scattered  about  France.  Some  of  them  are  situated  squarely  in  the  Old 

Merovingian  heartland.  A  few  kilometres  from  Stenay,  for  example,  on 

the  fringe  of  the 

Forest  of  Woevres  where  Dagobert  was  assassinated,  there  is  a  village 

called  Baalon.  Between  Stenay  and  Orval,  there  is  a  town  called 

Avioth.  And  the  mountain  of  Sion  in  Lorraine  "la  colline  inspiree'  was 

originally 


286 


Mount  Semita."  Again  then,  while  we  could  not  prove  the  claims  in  the 

"Prieure  documents',  we  could  not  discount  them  either.  Certainly  there  was  enough 

evidence  to  render  them  at  least  plausible.  We  were  compelled  to  acknowledge  that  the 

"Prieure  documents'  might  be  correct  that  the  Merovingians,  and  the  various  noble 

families  descended  from  them,  might  have  stemmed  from  Semitic  sources. 

But  could  this,  we  wondered,  really  be  all  there  was  to  the  story?  Could  this  really  be  the 

portentous  secret  which  had  engendered  so  much  fuss  and  intrigue,  so  much  machination 

and  mystery,  so  much  controversy  and  conflict  through  the  centuries?  Merely  another  lost 

tribe  legend? 

And  even  if  it  were  not  legend  but  true,  could  it  really  explain  the 

motivation  of  the 

Prieure  de  Sion  and  the  claim  of  the  Merovingian  dynasty?  Could  it 

really  explain  the  adherence  of  men  like  Leonardo  and  Newton  or  the 

activities  of  the  houses  of  Guise  and  Lorraine,  the  covert  endeavours 

of  the  Compagnie  du 

Saint-Sacrement,  the  elusive  secrets  of  "Scottish  Rite'  Freemasonry? 

Obviously  not.  Why  should  descent  from  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin 

constitute  so  explosive  a  secret?  And,  perhaps  most  crucially,  why 

should  descent  from  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin  matter  today?  How  could  it 

possibly  clarify  the 

Prieure  de  Sion's  present-day  activities  and  objectives? 

If  our  inquiry  involved  vested  interests  that  were  specifically  Semitic 

or 

Judaic,  moreover,  why  did  it  involve  so  many  components  of  a 

specifically,  even  fervently,  Christian  character?  The  pact  between 

Clovis  and  the  Roman 

Church,  for  example;  the  avowed  Christianity  of  Godfroi  de  Bouillon  and 

the  conquest  of  Jerusalem;  the  heretical,  perhaps,  but  none  the  less 

Christian  thought  of  the  Cathars  and  Knights  Templar;  pious 

institutions  like  the 

Compagnie  du  Saint-Sacrement;  Freemasonry  that  was  "Hermetic,  aristocratic  and 

Christian',  and  the  implication  of  so  many  Christian  ecclesiastics,  from  high  ranking 

princes  of  the  Church  to  local  village  cures  like  Boudet  and  Sauniere? 

It  might  be  that  the  Merovingians  were  ultimately  of  Judaic  origin,  but 

if  this  were  so  it  seemed  to  us  essentially  incidental.  Whatever  the 

real  secret  underlying  our  investigation  it  appeared  to  be  inextricably 

associated  not  with  Old  Testament  Judaism,  but  with  Christianity.  In 


287 


short,  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin  for  the  moment,  at  least  -seemed  to  be  a 

red  herring.  However  important  it  might  be,  there  was  something  of  even  greater 

importance  involved.  We  were  still  overlooking  something. 


288 


Three  The  Bloodline 


289 


11  The  Holy  Grail 

What  might  we  have  been  overlooking?  Or,  alternatively,  what  might  we  have  been 
seeking  in  the  wrong  place?  Was  there  perhaps  some  fragment  that  had  been  before  our 
eyes  all  along  which,  for  one  reason  or  another,  we  had  failed  to  notice?  As  far  as  we 
could  determine,  we  had  overlooked  no  item,  no  data  of  accepted  historical  scholarship. 
But  might  there  be  something  else  -something  that  lay  "beyond  the  pale'  of  documented 
history,  the  concrete  facts  to  which  we  had  endeavoured  to  confine  ourselves? 
Certainly  there  was  one  motif,  admittedly  fabulous,  which  had  threaded 
itself  through  our  investigation,  recurring  repeatedly,  with  insistent 
and  intriguing  consistency.  This  as  the  mysterious  object  known  as  the 
Holy 

Grail.  By  their  contemporaries,  for-example,  the  Cathars  were  believed 
to  have  been  in  possession  of  the  Grail.  The  Templars,  too,  were  often 
regarded  as  the  Grail's  custodians;  and  the  Grail  romances  had 
originally  issued  from  the  court  of  the  count  of  Champagne,  who  was 
intimately  associated  with  the  foundation  of  the  Knights  Templar.  When 
the  Templars  were  suppressed,  moreover,  the  bizarre  heads  they 
supposedly  worshipped  enjoyed,  according  to  the  official  Inquisition 
reports,  many  of  the  attributes  traditionally  ascribed  to  the  Grail 

-providing    sustenance,     for    example,    and    imbuing    the    land   with   fertility. 

In  the  course  of  our  investigation  we  had  run  across  the  Grail  in 
numerous  other  contexts  as  well.  Some  had  been  relatively  recent,  such 
as  the  occult  circles  of  Josephin  Peladan  and  Claude  Debussy  at  the  end 
of  the  nineteenth  century.  Others  were  considerably  older.  Godfroi  de 
Bouillon,  for  instance,  was  descended  according  to  medieval  legend  and 
folklore  from  Lohengrin,  the 


290 


Knight  of  the  Swan;  and  Lohengrin,  in  the  romances,  was  the  son  of 

Perceval  or  Parzival,  protagonist  of  all  the  early  Grail  stories. 

Guillem  de  Gellone,  moreover,  ruler  of  the  medieval  principality  in 

southern  France  during  the  reign  of  Charlemagne,  was  the  hero  of  a  poem 

by  Wolfram  von 

Eschenbach,  most  important  of  the  Grail  chroniclers.  Indeed,  the 

Guillem  in 

Wolfram's  poem  was  said  to  have  been  associated  in  some  way  with  the  mysterious  "Grail 

family'. 

Were  these  intrusions  of  the  Grail  into  our  inquiry,  and  others  like  them,  merely  random 

and  coincidental?  Or  was  there  a  continuity  underlying  and  connecting  them  a  continuity 

which,  in  some  unimaginable  way,  did  link  our  inquiry  to  the  Grail,  whatever  the  Grail 

might  really  be?  At  this  point,  we  were  confronted  by  a  staggering  question.  Could  the 

Grail  be  something  more  than  pure  fantasy?  Could  it  actually  have  existed  in  some 

sense?  Could  there  really  have  been  such  a  thing  as  the  Holy  Grail?  Or  something 

concrete,  at  any  rate,  for  which  the  Holy  Grail  was  employed  as  a  symbol? 

The  question  was  certainly  exciting  and  provocative  -to  say  the  least. 

At  the  same  time  it  threatened  to  take  us  too  far  afield,  into  spheres 

of  spurious  speculation.  It  did,  however,  serve  to  direct  our 

attention  to  the 

Grail  romances  themselves.  And  in  themselves  the  Grail  romances  posed  a  number  of 

perplexing  and  distinctly  relevant  conundrums. 

It  is  generally  assumed  that  the  Holy  Grail  relates  in  some  way  to  Jesus. 

According  to  some  traditions,  it  was  the  cup  from  which  Jesus  and  his  disciples  drank  at 

the  Last  Supper.  According  to  other  traditions,  it  was  the  cup  in  which  Joseph  of 

Arimathea  caught  Jesus's  blood  as  he  hung  on  the  cross.  According  to  other  traditions 

still,  the  Grail  was  both  of  these. 

But  if  the  Grail  was  so  intimately  associated  with  Jesus,  or  if  it  did  indeed  exist,  why  was 

there  no  reference  to  it  whatever  for  more  than  a  thousand  years?  Where  was  it  during  all 

that  time?  Why  did  it  not  figure  in  earlier  literature,  folklore  or  tradition?  Why  should 

something  of  such  intense  relevance  and  immediacy  to  Christendom  remain  buried  for  as 

long  as  it  apparently  did? 

More  provocatively  still,  why  should  the  Grail  finally  surface 

precisely  when  it  did  at  the  very  peak  of  the  Crusades?  Was  it 


291 


coincidence  that  this  enigmatic  object,  ostensibly  non-existent  for 

ten  centuries,  should  assume  the  status  it  did  at  the  very  time  it  did 

when  the  Frankish  kingdom  of  Jerusalem  was  in  its  full  glory,  when  the 

Templars  were  at  the  apex  of  their  power,  when  the 

Cathar  heresy  was  gaining  a  momentum  which  actually  threatened  to  displace  the  creed 

of  Rome?  Was  this  convergence  of  circumstances  truly  coincidental? 

Or  was  there  some  link  between  them? 

Inundated  and  somewhat  daunted  by  questions  of  this  kind,  we  turned  our  attention  to  the 

Grail  romances.  Only  by  examining  these  "fantasies'  closely  could  we  hope  to  determine 

whether  their  recurrence  in  our  inquiry  was  indeed  coincidental,  or  the  manifestation  of  a 

pattern  a  pattern  which  might,  in  some  way,  prove  significant. 

The  Legend  of  the  Holy  Grail 

Most  twentieth-century  scholarship  concurs  in  the  belief  that  the  Grail  romances  rest 

ultimately  on  a  pagan  foundation  a  ritual  connected  with  the  cycle  of  the  seasons,  the 

death  and  rebirth  of  the  year.  In  its  most  primordial  origins  it  would  appear  to  involve  a 

vegetation  cult,  closely  related  in  form  to,  if  not  directly  derived  from  those  of  Tammuz, 

Attis,  Adonis  and  Osiris  in  the  Middle  East.  Thus,  in  both  Irish  and  Welsh  mythology, 

there  are  repeated  references  to  death,  rebirth  and  renewal,  as  well  as  to  a  similar 

regenerative  process  in  the  land  sterility  and  fertility.  The  theme  is  central  to  the 

anonymous  fourteenth-century  English  poem,  Sir  Gawain  and  the  Green  Knight.  And  in 

the  Mabinogion,  a  compilation  of  Welsh  legends  roughly  contemporary  with  the  Grail 

romances  though  obviously  drawing  on  much  earlier  material,  there  is  a  mysterious 

"cauldron  of  rebirth'  in  which  dead  warriors,  thrown  at  nightfall,  are  resurrected  the 

following  morning.  This  cauldron  is  often  associated  with  a  giant  hero  named  Bran.  Bran 

also  possessed  a  platter  and  'whatever  food  one  wished  thereon  was  instantly  obtained'  - 

a  property  also  sometimes  ascribed  to  the  Grail.  At  the  end  of  his  life,  moreover,  Bran 

was  supposedly  decapitated  and  his  head  placed,  as  a  sort  of  talisman,  in  London. 


292 


Here  it  was  said  to  perform  a  number  of  magical  functions  not  only 

ensuring  fertility  of  the  land  but  also,  by  some  occult  power,  repelling  invaders. 

Many  of  these  motifs  were  subsequently  incorporated  into  the  Grail  romances.  There  is 

no  question  that  Bran,  with  his  cauldron  and  platter,  contributed  something  to  later 

conceptions  of  the  Grail.  And  Bran's  head  shares  attributes  not  only  with  the  Grail,  but 

also  with  the  heads  allegedly  worshipped  by  the  Knights  Templar. 

The  pagan  foundation  for  the  Grail  romances  has  been  exhaustively  explored  by  scholars, 

from  Sir  James  Frazer  in  The  Golden  Bough  up  to  the  present. 

But  during  the  mid  to  late  twelfth  century  the  originally  pagan  foundation  for  the  Grail 

romances  underwent  a  curious  and  extremely  important  transformation.  In  some  obscure 

way  that  has  eluded  the  investigation  of  researchers,  the  Grail  became  very  uniquely  and 

specifically  associated  with  Christianity  and  with  a  rather  unorthodox  form  of  Christianity  at 

that.  On  the  basis  of  some  elusive  amalgamation,  the  Grail  became  inextricably  linked 

with  Jesus.  And  there  seems  to  have  been  something  more  involved  than  a  facile  grafting 

of  pagan  and  Christian  traditions. 

As  a  relic  linked  mystically  with  Jesus,  the  Grail  engendered  a 

voluminous  quantity  of  romances,  or  lengthy  narrative  poems,  which, 

even  today,  tease  the  imagination.  Despite  clerical  disapprobation, 

these  romances  flourished  for  nearly  a  century,  becoming  a  fully 

fledged  cult  of  their  own  a  cult  whose  lifespan,  interestingly  enough, 

closely  paralleled  that  of  the  Order  of  the  Temple  after  its  separation 

from  the  Prieure  de  Sion  in  1 1 88.  With  the  fall  of  the  Holy  Land  in 

1291,  and  the  dissolution  of  the  Templars  between  1307  and  1314,  the 

Grail  romances  also  vanished  from  the  stage  of  history,  for  another  two 

centuries  or  so,  at  any  rate.  Then,  in  1470,  the  theme  was  taken  up 

again  by  Sir  Thomas  Malory  in  his  famous  Le  Morte  d'Arthur;  and  it  has 

remained  more  or  less  prominent  in  Western  culture  ever  since.  Nor  has 

its  context  always  been  wholly  literary.  There  seems  to  be  abundant 

documentary  evidence  that  certain  members  of  the  National 

Socialist  hierarchy  in  Germany  actually  believed  in  the  Grail's  physical  existence,  and 

excavations  for  it  were  actually  undertaken  during  the  war  in  the  south  of  France." 


293 


By  Malory's  time  the  mysterious  object  known  as  the  Grail  had  assumed 

the  more  or  less  distinct  identity  ascribed  to  it  today. 

It  was  alleged  to  be  the  cup  of  the  Last  Supper,  in  which  Joseph  of 

Arimathea  later  caught  Jesus's  blood.  According  to  certain  accounts, 

the 

Grail  was  brought  by  Joseph  of  Arimathea  to  England  more  specifically, 

to 

Glastonbury.  According  to  other  accounts,  it  was  brought  by  the 

Magdalene  to 

France.  As  early  as  the  fourth  century  legends  describe  the  Magdalene  fleeing  the  Holy 

Land  and  being  set  ashore  near  Marseilles  where,  for  that  matter,  her  purported  relics  are 

still  venerated.  According  to  medieval  legends,  she  carried  with  her  to  Marseilles  the  Holy 

Grail.  By  the  fifteenth  century  this  tradition  had  clearly  assumed  immense  importance  for 

such  individuals  as  King  Rene  d'Anjou,  who  collected  "Grail  cups'. 

But  the  early  legends  say  that  the  Magdalene  brought  the  Grail  into  France,  not  a  cup.  In 

other  words,  the  simple  association  of  Grail  and  cup  was  a  relatively  late  development. 

Malory  perpetuated-  this  facile  association,  and  it  has  been  a  truism  ever  since.  But 

Malory,  in  fact,  took  considerable  liberties  with  his  original  sources.  In  these  original 

sources,  the  Grail  is  something  much  more  than  a  cup.  And  the  mystical  aspects  of  the 

Grail  are  far  more  important  than  the  chivalric,  which  Malory  extols. 

In  the  opinion  of  most  scholars  the  first  genuine  Grail  romance  dates 

from  the  late  twelfth  century,  from  around  1 188  that  crucial  year  which 

witnessed  the  fall  of  Jerusalem  and  the  alleged  rupture  between  the 

Order  of  the  Temple  and  the  Prieur6  de  Sion.  The  romance  in  question 

is  entitled 

Le  Roman  de~Perceval  or  Le  Conte  del  Graal .  It  was  composed  by  one  Chretien  de 

Troyes,  who  seems  to  have  been  attached,  in  some  indeterminate  capacity,  to  the  court  of 

the-count  of  Champagne. 

Little  is  known  of  Chretien's  biography.  His  association  with  the 

court  of 

Champagne  is  apparent  from  numerous  works  composed  before  his  Grail 

romance  works  dedicated  to  Marie,  Countess  of  Champagne.  Through  this 

corpus  of  courtly  romances  including  one  dealing  with  Lancelot,  which 

makes  no  mention  of  anything  resembling  a  Grail  Chretien  by  the  1 180s 

had  established  an  imposing  reputation  for  himself.  And,  given  his 

earlier  work,  one  might  have  expected  him  to  continue  in  a  similar 


294 


vein.  Towards  the  end  of  his  life,  however,  Chretien  turned  his 

attention  to  a  new,  hitherto  unarticulated  theme;  and  the  Holy  Grail,  as  it  has  come  down 

to  us  today,  made  its  official  debut  in  Western  culture  and  consciousness. 

Chretien's  Grail  romance  was  dedicated  not  to  Marie  de  Champagne,  but 

to 

Philippe  d'Alsace,  Count  of  Flanders. 2  At  the  beginning  of  his  poem 

Chretien  declares  that  his  work  has  been  composed  specifically  at 

Philippe's  request,  and  that  it  was  from  Philippe  that  he  heard  the  story  in  the  first  place. 

The  work  itself  furnishes  a  general  pattern,  and  constitutes  a  prototype,  for  subsequent 

Grail  narratives.  Its  protagonist  is  named  Perceval,  who  is  described  as  the  Son  of  the 

Widow  Lady'.  This  appellation  is,  in  itself,  both  significant  and  intriguing.  It  had  long  been 

employed  by  certain  of  the  dualist  and  Gnostic  heresies  -sometimes  for  their  own 

prophets,  sometimes  for  Jesus  himself.  Subsequently  i#  became  a  cherished  designation 

in  Freemasonry. 

Leaving  his  widowed  mother,  Perceval  sallies  forth  to  win  his  knighthood. 

During  his  travels,  he  comes  upon  an  enigmatic  fisherman  the  famous 

"Fisher  King'  in  whose  castle  he  is  offered  refuge  for  the  night.  That  evening  the  Grail 

appears.  Neither  at  this  point  nor  at  any  other  in  the  poem  is  it  linked  in  any  way  whatever 

with  Jesus.  In  fact  the  reader  learns  very  little  about  it.  He  is  not  even  told  what  it  is.  But 

whatever  it  is,  it  is  carried  by  a  damsel,  is  golden  and  studded  with  gems.  Perceval  does 

not  know  that  he  is  expected  to  ask  a  question  of  this  mysterious  object  he  is  expected  to 

ask  "whom  one  serves  with  it'.  The  question  is  obviously  ambiguous.  If  the  Grail  is  a 

vessel  or  a  dish  of  some  kind,  the  question  may  mean  "who  is  intended  to  eat  from  it'. 

Alternatively  the  question  might  be  rephrased:  "Whom  does  one  serve  (in  a  chivalric 

sense)  by  virtue  of  serving  the  Grail?"  Whatever  the  meaning  of  the  question,  Perceval 

neglects  to  ask  it;  and  the  next  morning  when  he  wakes,  the  castle  is  empty.  His 

omission,  he  learns  subsequently,  causes  a  disastrous  blight  on  the  land. 

Later  still  he  learns  that  he  himself  is  of  the  "Grail  family',  and  that  the  mysterious  "Fisher 

King',  who  was  "sustained'  by  the  Grail,  was  in  fact  his  own  uncle.  At  this  point  Perceval 

makes  a  curious  confession.  Since  his  unhappy  experience  with  the  Grail,  he  declares, 

he  has  ceased  to  love  or  believe  in  God. 


295 


Chretien's  poem  is  rendered  all  the  more  perplexing  by  the  fact  that 

it  is  unfinished.  Chretien  himself  died  around  1 1 88,  quite  possibly  before  he  could 

complete  the  work;  and  even  if  he  did  complete  it  no  copy  has  survived.  If  such  a  copy 

ever  existed,  it  may  well  have  been  destroyed  in  a  fire  at  Troyes  in  1 188.  The  point  need 

not  be  laboured,  but  certain  scholars  have  found  this  fire,  coinciding  as  it  did  with  the 

poet's  death,  vaguely  suspicious. 

In  any  case  Chretien's  version  of  the  Grail  story  is  less  important  in 

itself  than  in  its  role  as  precursor.  During  the  next  half  century  the 

motif  he  had  introduced  at  the  court  of  Troyes  was  to  spread  through 

Western  Europe  like  a  brush-fire.  At  the  same  time,  however,  modern  experts  on  the 

subject  agree  that  the  later  Grail  romances  do  not  seem  to  have  derived  wholly  from 

Chretien,  but  seem  to  have  drawn  on  at  least  one  other  source  as  well  a  source  which,  in 

all  probability,  pre-dated  Chretien. 

And  during  its  proliferation  the  Grail  story  became  much  more  closely  linked  with  King 

Arthur  who  was  only  a  peripheral  figure  in  Chretien's  version.  And  it  also  became  linked 

with  Jesus. 

Of  the  numerous  Grail  romances  which  followed  Chretien's  version,  there 

were  three  that  proved  of  special  interest  and  relevance  to  us.  One  of 

these,  the  Roman  de  I'Estoire  dou  Saint  Graal,  was  composed  by  Robert 

de 

Boron,  sometime  between  1 1 90  and  1 1 99.  Justifiably  or  no,  Robert  is  often  credited  with 

making  the  Grail  a  specifically  Christian  symbol. 

Robert  himself  states  that  he  is  drawing  on  an  earlier  source  and  one 

quite  different  from  Chretien.  In  speaking  of  his  poem,  and 

particularly  of  the 

Grail's  Christian  character,  he  alludes  to  a  "great  book',  the  secrets 

of  which  have  been  revealed  to  him. 3 

It  is  thus  uncertain  whether  Robert  himself  Christianised  the  Grail,  or 

whether  someone  else  did  so  before  him.  Most  authorities  today  incline 

towards  the  second  of  these  possibilities.  However,  there  is  no 

question  that  Robert  de  Boron's  account  is  the  first  to  furnish  a 

history  of  the 

Grail.  The  Grail,  he  explains,  was  the  cup  of  the  Last  Supper.  It 

then  passed  into  the  hands  of  Joseph  of  Arimathea,  who,  when  Jesus  was 

removed  from  the  cross,  filled  it  with  the  Saviour's  blood  and  it  is 

this  sacred  blood  which  confers  on  the  Grail  a  magical  quality.  After 

the  Crucifixion, 


296 


Robert  continues,  Joseph's  family  became  the  keepers  of  the  Grail. 

And  for  Robert  the  Grail  romances  involve  the  adventures  and 

vicissitudes  of  this  particular  family.  Thus  Galahad  is  said  to  be 

Joseph  of  Arimathea's  son.  And  the  Grail  itself  passes  to  Joseph's 

brother-in-law,  Brons,  who  carries  it  to  England  and  becomes  the 

Fisher 

King.  As  in  Chretien's  poem,  Perceval  is  the  "Son  of  the  Widow  Lady',  but  he  is  also  the 

grandson  of  the  Fisher  King: 

Robert's  version  of  the  Grail  story  thus  deviates  in  a  number  of 

important  respects  from  Chretien's.  In  both  versions  Perceval  is  a 

"Son  of  the  Widow 

Lady',  but  in  Robert's  version  he  is  the  grandson,  not  the  nephew,  of 

the 

Fisher  King  and  thus  even  more  directly  related  to  the  Grail  family. 

And  while  Chretien's  narrative  is  vague  in  its  chronology,  set  sometime 

during  the  Arthurian  age,  Robert's  is  quite  precise.  For  Robert,  the 

Grail  story  is  set  in  England,  and  is  not  contemporary  with  Arthur  but 

with  Joseph  of 

Arimathea. 

There  is  another  Grail  romance  which  has  much  in  common  with  Robert's. 

Indeed  it  would  seem  to  draw  upon  the  same  sources,  but  its  utilisation 

of  these  sources  is  very  different  and  decidedly  more  interesting.  The 

romance  in  question  is  known  as  the  Perlesvaus.  It  was  composed  around 

the  same  time  as  Robert's  poem,  between  1190  and  1212,  by  an  author 

who,  contrary  to  the  conventions  of  the  time,  chose  to  remain 

anonymous.  It  is  odd  that  he  should  have  done  so,  given  the  exalted 

status  accorded  poets,  unless  he  was  involved  in  some  calling  a 

monastic  or  military  order,  for  example  which  would  have  rendered 

composition  of  such  romances  unseemly  or  inappropriate.  And,  in  fact, 

the  weight  of  textual  evidence  concerning  the 

Perlesvaus  suggests  this  to  be  the  case.  According  to  at  least  one  modern  expert,  the 

Perlesvaus  may  actually  have  been  written  by  a  Templar.  And  there  is  certainly  evidence 

to  support  such  a  conjecture. 

It  is  known,  for  instance,  that  the  Teutonic  Knights  encouraged  and 

sponsored  anonymous  poets  in  their  ranks,  and  such  a  precedent  could 

well  have  been  established  by  the  Templars.  What  is  more,  the  author 

of  the  Perlesvaus  reveals,  in  the  course  of  the  poem,  an  almost 

extraordinarily  detailed  knowledge  of  the  realities  of  fighting  of 

armour  and  equipment,  strategy  and  tactics,  and  weaponry  and  its 


297 


effects  on  human  flesh.  The  graphic  description  of  wounds,  for 

example,  would  seem  to  attest  to  a  first-hand  experience  of  the  battlefield  a  realistic, 

unromanticised  experience  uncharacteristic  of  any  other  Grail  romance. 

If  the  Perlesvaus  was  not  actually  composed  by  a  Templar,  it  nevertheless  provides  a 

solid  basis  for  linking  the  Templars  with  the  Grail.  Although  the  Order  is  not  mentioned  by 

name,  its  appearance  in  the  poem  would  seem  to  be  unmistakable.  Thus  Perceval,  in  his 

wanderings,  happens  upon  a  castle.  This  castle  does  not  house  the  Grail,  but  it  does 

house  a  conclave  of  "initiates'  who  are  obviously  familiar  with  the  Grail.  Perceval  is 

received  here  by  two  "masters'  who  clap  their  hands  and  are  joined  by  thirty-three  other 

men.  "They  were  clad  in  white  garments,  and  not  one  of  them  but  had  a  red  cross  in  the 

midst  of  his  breast,  and  they  seemed  to  be  all  of  an  age.  "S  One  of  these  mysterious 

"masters'  states  that  he  has  personally  seen  the  Grail  an  experience  vouchsafed  only  to 

an  elect  few. 

And  he  also  states  that  he  is  familiar  with  Perceval's  lineage. 

Like  Chretien's  and  Robert's  poems,  the  Perlesvaus  lays  an  enormous  stress  on  lineage. 

At  numerous  points  Perceval's  is  described  as  "most  holy'. 

Elsewhere  it  is  stated  explicitly  that  Perceval  "was  of  the  lineage 

of 

Joseph  of  Arimathea',  and  that  "this  Joseph  was  his  [Perceval's]  mother's  uncle,  that  had 

been  a  soldier  of  Pilate  seven  years'." 

Nevertheless  the  Perlesvaus  is  not  set  in  Joseph's  lifetime.  On  the  contrary  it  takes  place, 

like  Chretien's  version,  during  the  age  of  Arthur. 

Chronology  is  further  scrambled  by  the  fact  that  the  Holy  Land  is  already  in  the  hands  of 

the  "infidel'  which  it  wasn't  until  nearly  two  centuries  after  Arthur.  And  by  the  fact  that  the 

Holy  Land  is  apparently  to  be  identified  with  Camelot. 

To  a  greater  degree  than  either  Chretien's  or  Robert's  poems,  the 

Perlesvaus  is  magical  in  nature.  In  addition  to  his  knowledge  of  the 

battlefield,  the  anonymous  author  displays  a  knowledge,  quite 

surprising  for  the  time,  of  conjuration  and  invocation.  There  are  also 

numerous  alchemical  references  to  two  men,  for  instance,  "made  of 

copper  by  art  of  nigromancy'."  And  some  of  the  magical  and  alchemical 

references  resonate  with  echoes  of  the  mystery  surrounding  the 


298 


Templars.  Thus,  one  of  the  "masters'  of  the  White-clad  Templar-like 

company  says  to  Perceval,  "There  are  the  heads  sealed  in  silver,  and 

the  heads  sealed  in  lead,  and  the  bodies  whereunto  these  heads 

belonged;  I  tell  you  that  you  must  make  come  thither  the  head  both  of 

the  King  and  of  the  Queen. "e 

If  the  Perlesvaus  abounds  in  magical  allusions,  it  also  abounds  in  other  allusions  that  are 

both  heretical  and/or  pagan.  Again  Perceval  is  designated  by  the  dualist  appellation,  "Son 

of  the  Widow  Lady'.  There  are  references  to  a  sanctioned  ritual  of  king-sacrifice,  most 

incongruous  in  a  purportedly  Christian  poem.  There  are  references  to  the  roasting  and 

devouring  of  children  a  crime  of  which  the  Templars  were  popularly  accused.  And  at  one 

point  there  is  a  singular  rite,  which  again  evokes  memories  of  the  Templar  trials.  At  a  red 

cross  erected  in  a  forest,  a  beautiful  white  beast  of  indeterminate  nature  is  torn  apart  by 

hounds. 

While  Perceval  watches,  a  knight  and  a  damsel  appear  with  golden  vessels,  collect  the 

fragments  of  mutilated  flesh  and,  having  kissed  the  cross,  disappear  into  the  trees. 

Perceval  himself  then  kneels  before  the  cross  and  kisses  it: 

and  there  came  to  him  a  smell  so  sweet  of  the  cross  and  of  the  place, 

such  as  no  sweetness  can  be  compared  therewith.  He  looketh  and  see  th 

coming  from  the  forest  two  priests  all  afoot;  and  the  first  shouteth  to 

him:  "Sir 

Knight,  withdraw  yourself  away  from  the  cross,  for  no  right  have  you  to  come  nigh  it': 

Perceval  draweth  him  back,  and  the  priest  kneeleth  before  the  cross  and  adore  th  it  and 

boweth  down  and  kisseth  it  more  than  a  score  times,  and  manifeste  th  the  most  joy  in  the 

world.  And  the  other  priest  cometh  after,  and  bringeth  a  great  rod,  and  set  teth  the  first 

priest  aside  by  force,  and  bea  teth  the  cross  with  the  rod  in  every  part,  and  weepeth  right 

passing  sore. 

Perceval  beholdeth  him  with  right  great  wonderment  and  saith  unto 

him, 

"Sir,  herein  seem  you  to  be  no  priest!  wherefore  do  you  so  great 

shame?T  "Sir,"  with  the  priest,  "It  nought  concerneth  you  of  whatsoever 

we  may  do,  nor  nought  shall  you  know  thereof  for  us!"  Had  he  not  been 

a  priest, 

Perceval  would  have  been  right  wroth  with  him,  but  he  had  no  will  to  do 

him  any  hurt.9 


299 


Such  abuse  of  the  cross  evokes  distinct  echoes  of  the  accusations 

levelled  against  the  Templars.  But  not  of  the  Templars  alone.  It  might  also  reflect  a  skein 

of  dualist  or  Gnostic  thought  the  thought  of  the  Cathars,  for  instance,  who  also  repudiated 

the  cross. 

In  the  Perlesvaus  this  skein  of  dualist  or  Gnostic  thought  extends,  in  some  sense,  to  the 

Grail  itself.  For  Chretien  the  Grail  was  something  unspecified,  made  of  gold  and 

encrusted  with  gems.  For  Robert  de  Boron  it  was  identified  as  the  cup  used  at  the  Last 

Supper  and  subsequently  to  collect  Jesus's  blood.  In  the  Perlesvaus,  however,  the  Grail 

assumes  a  most  curious  and  significant  dimension.  At  one  point,  Sir  Gawain  is  warned  by 

a  priest,  "for  behoveth  not  discover  the  secrets  of  the  Saviour,  and  them  also  to  whom 

they  are  committed  behoveth  keep  them  covertly'."  The  Grail,  then,  involves  a  secret  in 

some  way  related  to  Jesus;  and  the  nature  of  this  secret  is  entrusted  to  a  select  company. 

When  Gawain  eventually  does  see  the  Grail,  it  "seemeth  him  that  in  the 

midst  of  the  Graal  he  see  th  the  figure  of  a  child  ..  .  he  looketh  up 

and  it  seemeth  him  to  be  the  Graal  all  in  flesh,  and  he  see  th  above, 

as  he  thinketh,  a  King  crowned,  nailed  upon  a  rood."  And  some  time 

later,  the 

Grail  appeared  at  the  sac  ring  of  the  mass,  in  five  several  manners  that  none  ought  not  to 

tell,  for  the  secret  things  of  the  sacrament  ought  none  tell  openly,  but  he  unto  whom  God 

hath  given  it.  King  Arthur  beheld  all  the  changes,  the  last  whereof  was  the  change  into  a 

chalice." 

In  short  the  Grail,  in  the  Perlesvaus,  consists  of  a  changing  sequence  of  images  or 

visions.  The  first  of  these  is  a  crowned  king,  crucified.  The  second  is  a  child.  The  third  is 

a  man  wearing  a  crown  of  thorns,  bleeding  from  his  forehead,  his  feet,  his  palms  and  his 

side.  1 1  The  fourth  manifestation  is  not  specified.  The  fifth  is  a  chalice.  On  each 

occasion  the  manifestation  is  attended  by  a  fragrance  and  a  great  light. 

From  this  account  the  Grail,  in  the  Perlesvaus,  would  seem  to  be 

several  things  simultaneously  or  something  that  can  be  interpreted  on 

several  different  levels.  On  the  mundane  level,  it  might  well  be  an 

object  of  some  kind  -like  a  cup,  bowl  or  chalice.  It  would  also,  in 


300 


some  metaphorical  sense,  appear  to  be  a  lineage  or  perhaps  certain 

individuals  who  comprise  this  lineage.  And  quite  obviously  the  Grail  would  also  seem  to 

be  an  experience  of  some  sort  quite  likely  a  Gnostic  illumination  such  as  that  extolled  by 

the  Cathars  and  other  dualist  sects  of  the  period. 

The  Story  of  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach 

Of  all  the  Grail  romances  the  most  famous,  and  the  most  artistically  significant,  is  Parzival, 

composed  sometime  between  1 1 95  and  1 21 6.  Its  author  was  Wolfram  von  Eschenbach, 

a  knight  of  Bavarian  origin.  At  first  we  thought  that  this  might  distance  him  from  his 

subject,  rendering  his  account  less  reliable  than  various  others.  Before  long,  however,  we 

concluded  that  if  anyone  could  speak  authoritatively  of  the  Grail,  it  was  Wolfram. 

At  the  beginning  of  Parzival,  Wolfram  boldly  asserts  that  Chretien's  version  of  the  Grail 

story  is  wrong,  while  his  own  is  accurate  because  based  on  privileged  information.  This 

information,  he  later  explains,  he  obtained  from  one  Kyot  de  Provence  who  received  it  in 

turn  supposedly  from  one  Flegetanis.  It  is  worth  quoting  Wolfram's  words  in  full: 

Anyone  who  asked  me  before  about  the  Grail  and  took  me  to  task  for  not 

telling  him  was  very  much  in  the  wrong.  Kyot  asked  me  not  to  reveal 

this,  for  Adventure  commanded  him  to  give  it  no  thought  until  she 

herself, 

Adventure,  should  invite  the  telling,  and  then  one  must  speak  of  it,  of  course. 

Kyot,  the  well-known  master,  found  in  Toledo,  discarded,  set  down  in  heathen  writing,  the 

first  source  of  this  adventure.  He  first  had  to  learn  the  abc's,  but  without  the  art  of  black 

magic .. . 

A  heathen,  Flegetanis,  had  achieved  high  renown  for  his  learning.  This 

scholar  of  nature  was  descended  from  Solomon  and  born  of  a  family  which 

had  long  been  Israelite  until  baptism  became  our  shield  against  the 

fire  of  Hell.  He  wrote  the  adventure  of  the  Grail.  On  his  father's 

side, 


301 


Flegetanis  was  a  heathen,  who  worshipped  a  calf ..  .  The  heathen 

Flegetanis  could  tell  us  how  all  the  stars  set  and  rise  again  .  To  the  circling  course  of  the 

stars  man's  affairs  and  destiny  aye  linked.  Flegetanis  the  heathen  saw  with  his  own  eyes 

in  the  constellations  things  he  was  shy  to  talk  about,  hidden  mysteries.  He  said  there  was 

a  thing  called  the  Grail,  whose  name  he  had  read  clearly  in  the  constellations.  A  host  of 

angels  left  it  on  the  earth. 

Since  then,  baptised  men  have  had  the  task  of  guarding  it,  and  with  such  chaste  discipline 

that  those  who  are  called  to  the  service  of  the  Grail  are  always  noble  men.  Thus  wrote 

Flegetanis  of  these  things. 

Kyot,  the  wise  master,  set  about  to  trace  this  tale  in  Latin  books,  to  see  where  there  ever 

had  been  a  people,  dedicated  to  purity  and  worthy  of  caring  for  the  Grail.  He  read  the 

chronicles  of  the  lands,  in  Britain  and  elsewhere,  in  France  and  in  Ireland,  and  in  Anjou  lie 

found  the  tale. 

There  he  read  the  true  story  of  Mazadan,  and  the  exact  record  of  all 

his  family  was  written  there. "4 

Of  the  numerous  items  that  beg  for  comment  in  this  passage,  it  is 

important  to  note  at  least  four.  One  is  that  the  Grail  story 

apparently  involves  the  family  of  an  individual  named  Mazadan.  A 

second  is  that  the  house  of  Anjou  is  in  some  way  of  paramount 

consequence.  A  third  is  that  the  original  version  of  the  story  seems 

to  have  filtered  into  Western  Europe  over  the 

Pyrenees,  from  Muslim  Spain  a  perfectly  plausible  assertion,  given  the 

status  Toledo  enjoyed  as  a  centre  for  esoteric  studies,  both  Judaic 

and 

Muslim.  But  the  most  striking  element  in  the  passage  quoted  is  that 

the 

Grail  story,  as  Wolfram  explains  its  derivation,  would  seem  ultimately  to  be  of  Judaic 

origin.  If  the  Grail  is  so  awesome  a  Christian  mystery,  why  should  its  secret  be 

transmitted  by  Judaic  initiates?  For  that  matter,  why  should  Judaic  writers  have  had 

access  to  specifically  Christian  material  of  which  Christendom  itself  was  unaware? 

Scholars  have  wasted  considerble  time  and  energy  debating  whether  Kyot 

and 

Flegetanis  are  real  or  fictitious.  In  fact  the  identity  of  Kyot,  as  we  had  learned  from  our 

study  of  the  Templars,  can  be  fairly  solidly  established. 


302 


Kyot  de  Provence  would  seem,  almost  certainly,  to  have  been  Guiot  de 

Provins  -  a  troubadour,  monk  and  spokesman  for  the  Templars  who  did  live  in  Provence 

and  ~  who  wrote  love  songs,  attacks  on  the  Church,  paeans  in  praise  of  the  Temple  and 

satirical  verses. 

Guiot  is  known  to  have  visited  Mayence,  in  Germany,  in  1184.  The 

occasion  was  the  chivalric  festival  of  Pentecost,  at  which  the  Holy 

Roman  Emperor, 

Frederick  Barbarossa,  conferred  knighthood  on  his  sons.  As  a  matter  of 

course  the  ceremony  was  attended  by  poets  and  troubadours  from  all 

over 

Christendom.  As  a  knight  of  the  Holy  Roman  Empire,  Wolfram  would  almost  certainly 

have  been  present;  and  it  is  certainly  reasonable  to  suppose  that  he  and  Guiot  met. 

Learned  men  were  not  so  very  common  at  the  time. 

Inevitably  they  would  have  clustered  together,  sought  each  other  out,  made  each  other's 

acquaintance;  and  Guiot  may  well  have  found  in  Wolfram  a  kindred  spirit  to  whom  he 

perhaps  confided  certain  information,  even  if  only  in  symbolic  form.  And  if  Guiot  permits 

Kyot  to  be  accepted  as  genuine,  it  is  at  least  plausible  to  assume  that  Flegetanis  was 

genuine  as  well.  If  he  was  not,  Wolfram  and/or  Guiot  must  have  had  some  special 

purpose  in  creating  him.  And  in  giving  him  the  distinctive  background  and  pedigree  he  is 

said  to  have  had. 

In  addition  to  the  Grail  story,  Wolfram  may  have  obtained  from  Guiot  a 

consuming  interest  in  the  Templars.  In  any  case  it  is  known  that 

Wolfram  possessed  such  an  interest.  Like  Guiot  he  even  made  a 

pilgrimage  to  the 

Holy  Land,  where  he  could  observe  the  Templars  in  action,  at  first  hand. 

And  in  Parzival  he  emphasises  that  the  guardians  of  the  Grail  and  the  Grail  family  are 

Templars.  This  might,  of  course,  be  the  sloppy  chronology  and  cavalier  anachronism  of 

poetic  licence  such  as  can  be  discerned  in  some  of  the  other  Grail  romances.  But 

Wolfram  is  much  more  careful  about  such  things  than  other  writers  of  his  time.  Moreover 

there  are  the  patent  allusions  to  the  Temple  in  the  Perlesvaus.  Would  both  Wolfram  and 

the  author  of  the  Perlesvaus  be  guilty  of  the  same  glaring  anachronism? 

Possibly.  But  it  is  also  possible  that  something  is  being  implied  by 

these  ostentatious  connections  of  the  Templars  with  the  Grail.  For  if 

the 

Templars  are  indeed  guardians  of  the  Grail,  there  is  one  flagrant 

implication  that  the  Grail  existed  not  only  in  Arthurian  times,  but 


303 


also  during  the  Crusades,  when  the  romances  about  it  were  composed.  By  introducing  the 

Templars,  both  Wolfram  and  the  author  of  the  Perlesvaus  may  be  suggesting  that  the 

Grail  was  not  just  something  of  the  past,  but  also  something  which,  for  them,  possessed 

contemporary  relevance. 

The  background  to  Wolfram's  poem  is  thus  as  important,  in  some  obscure  way,  as  the  text 

of  the  poem  itself.  Indeed  the  role  of  the  Templars,  like  the  identity  of  both  Kyot  and 

Flegetanis,  would  seem  to  be  crucial;  and  these  factors  may  well  hold  a  key  to  the  whole 

mystery  surrounding  the  Grail. 

Unfortunately,  the  text  of  Parzival  does  little  to  resolve  these  questions,  while  posing  a 

good  many  others. 

In  the  first  place  Wolfram  not  only  maintains  that  his  version  of  the 

Grail  story,  in  contrast  to  Chretien's,  is  the  correct  one.  He  also 

maintains  that  Chretien's  account  is  merely  fantastic  fable,  whereas 

his  is  in  fact  a  species  of  "initiation  document'.  In  other  words,  as 

Wolfram  states  quite  unequivocally,  there  is  more  to  the  Grail  mystery 

than  meets  the  eye.  And  he  makes  it  clear,  with  numerous  references 

throughout  his  poem,  that  'the 

Grail  is  not  merely  an  object  of  gratuitous  mystification  and  fantasy,  but  a  means  of 

concealing  something  of  immense  consequence.  Again  and  again,  he  hints  to  his 

audience  to  read  between  the  lines,  dropping  here  and  there  suggestive  hints.  At  the 

same  time,  he  constantly  reiterates  the  urgency  of  secrecy,  "For  no  man  can  ever  win  the 

Grail  unless  he  is  known  in  Heaven  and  he  be  called  by  name  to  the  Grail. 

115  And  'the  Grail  is  unknown  save  to  those  who  have  been  called  by 

name  ..  .  to  the  Grail's  company. "6 

Wolfram  is  both  precise  and  elusive  in  identifying  the  Grail.  When  it  first  appears,  on 

Parzival's  sojourn  in  the  Fisher  King's  castle,  there  is  no  real  indication  of  what  it  is.  It 

would  seem,  however,  to  have  something  in  common  with  Chretien's  vague  description  of 

it: 

She  [the  Queen  of  the  Grail  family]  was  clothed  in  a  dress  of  Arabian  silk.  Upon  a  deep 

green  achmardi  she  bore  the  Perfection  of  Paradise,  both  root  and  branch. 

That  was  a  thing  called  the  Grail,  which  surpasses  all  earthly 

perfection.  Repanse  de  Schoye  was  the  name  of  her  whom  the  Grail 


304 


permitted  to  be  its  bearer.  Such  was  the  nature  of  the  Grail  that  she 

who  watched  over  it  had  to  preserve  her  purity  and  renounce  all  falsity." 

Among  other  things,  the  Grail,  at  this  point,  would  seem  to  be  a  kind  of  magical 

cornucopia  or  horn  of  plenty: 

A  hundred  squires,  so  ordered,  reverently  took  bread  in  white  napkins 

from  before  the  Grail,  stepped  back  in  a  group  and,  separating,  passed 

the  bread  to  all  the  tables.  I  was  told,  and  I  tell  you  too,  but  on 

your  oath,  not  mine  hence  if  I  deceive  you,  we  are  liars  all  of  us  that 

whatsoever  one  reached  out  his  hand  for,  he  found  it  ready,  in  front  of 

the  Grail,  food  warm  or  food  cold,  dishes  new  or  old,  meat  tame  or 

game.  "There  never  was  anything  like  that,"  many  will  say.  But  they 

will  be  wrong  in  their  angry  protest,  for  the  Grail  was  the  fruit  of 

blessedness,  such  abundance  of  the  sweetness  of  the  world  that  its 

delights  were  very  like  what  we  are  told  of  the  kingdom  of  heaven. "8 

All  of  this  is  rather  mundane  in  its  way,  even  pedestrian,  and  the  Grail  would  appear  to  be 

an  innocuous  enough  affair.  But  later,  when  Parzival's  hermit-uncle  expounds  on  the 

Grail,  it  becomes  decidedly  more  powerful. 

After  a  lengthy  disquisition,  which  includes  strands  of  flagrantly  Gnostic  thought,  the 

hermit  describes  the  Grail  thus: 

Well  I  know  that  many  brave  knights  dwell  with  the  Grail  at  Munsalvaesche. 

Always  when  they  ride  out,  as  they  often  do,  it  is  to  seek  adventure.  They  do  so  for  their 

sins,  these  templars,  whether  their  reward  be  defeat  or  victory.  A  valiant  host  lives  there, 

and  I  will  tell  you  how  they  are  sustained.  They  live  from  a  stone  of  purest  kind.  If  you  do 

not  know  it,  it  shall  here  be  named  to  you.  It  is  called  lapsit  exillis.  By  the  power  of  that 

stone  the  phoenix  burns  to  ashes,  but  the  ashes  give  him  life  again. 

Thus  does  the  phoenix  molt  and  change  its  plumage,  which  afterwards  is 

bright  and  shining  and  as  lovely  as  before.  There  never  was  a  human  so 

ill  but  that,  if  he  one  day  sees  that  stone,  he  cannot  die  within  the 

week  that  follows.  And  in  looks  he  will  not  fade.  His  appearance  will 

stay  the  same,  be  it  maid  or  man,  as  on  the  day  he  saw  the  stone,  the 


305 


same  as  when  the  best  years  of  his  life  began,  and  though  he  should 

see  the  stone  for  two  hundred  years,  it  will  never  change,  save  that 

his  hair  might  perhaps  turn  grey.  Such  power  does  the  stone  give  a  man 

that  flesh  and  bones  are  at  once  made  young  again.  The  stone  is  also 

called  the 

Grail." 

According  to  Wolfram,  then,  the  Grail  is  a  stone  of  some  kind.  But  such  a  definition  of  the 

Grail  is  far  more  provocative  than  satisfying.  Scholars  have  a  number  of  interpretations  of 

the  phrase  lap  sit  exillis',  all  of  which  are  more  or  less  plausible.  "Lapsit  exillis'  might  be  a 

corruption  of  "lapis  ex  caelis'  -  "stone  from  the  heavens'.  It  might  also  be  a  corruption  of 

lap  sit  ex  caelis'  -  "it  fell  from  the  heavens',  or  of  "lapis  lapsus  ex  caelus'  -  "a  stone  fallen 

from  heaven',  or,  finally,  of  "lapis  elixir'  the  fabulous  Philosopher's  Stone  of  alchemy. 2 

Certainly  the  passage  quoted,  like  the  whole  of  Wolfram's  poem  for  that  matter,  is  laden 

with  alchemical  symbolism.  The  phoenix,  for  example  is  established  alchemical  shorthand 

for  resurrection  or  rebirth  and  also,  in  medieval  iconography,  is  an  emblem  of  the  dying 

and  resurrected  Jesus. 

If  the  phoenix  is  indeed  somehow  representative  of  Jesus,  Wolfram  is 

implicitly  associating  him  with  a  stone.  Such  an  association  is,  of 

course,  hardly  unique.  There  is  Peter  (Pierre  or  "stone'  in  French) 

the  "stone'  or  'rock'  on  which  Jesus  establishes  his  church.  And  as  we 

had  discovered, 

Jesus,  in  the  New  Testament,  explicitly  equates  himself  with  "the  keystone  neglected  by 

the  builders'  the  keystone  of  the  Temple;  the  Rock  of  Sion. 

Because  it  was  "founded'  on  this  rock,  there  was  supposedly  a  royal  tradition  descended 

from  Godfroi  de  Bouillon  which  was  equal  to  the  reigning  dynasties  of  Votrppe. 

Wolfram  links  that  immedately  following  the  one  quoted,  and,  through 

the  symlioraecifically  with  the  Crucifixion  -This  very  day,  there  comes 

with  the 

Magdalene:  wherein  lies  its  greatest  power  the  Grail]  a  message  and 

they  await  there  a  dove,  jay  is  Good  Friday, 

Heaven.  It  brings  a  small  white  the  stone.  Then,  shining  white,  the 


306 


~#  ,  down  it  on  Heaven  again.  Always  on  Good  Friday  it  ~&r?  up  to 

the  stone  what  I  have  just  told  you,  and  from  that  the  stone  derives 

whatever  good  fragrances  of  drink  and  food  there  are  on  earth,  like  to 

the  perfection  of  Paradise.  I  mean  all  things  the  earth  may  bear.  And 

further  the  stone  provides  whatever  game  lives  beneath  the  heavens, 

whether  it  flies  or  runs  or  swims.  Thus,  to  the  knightly  brotherhood, 

does  the  power  of  the  Grail  give  sustenance. z' 

In  addition  to  its  other  extraordinary  attributes  the  Grail,  in  Wolfram's  poem,  would  almost 

seem  to  possess  a  certain  sentience.  It  has  the  capacity  to  call  individuals  into  its  service 

to  call  them,  that  is,  in  an  active  sense: 

Hear  now  how  those  called  to  the  Grail  are  made  known.  On  the  stone,  around  the  edge, 

appear  letters  inscribed,  giving  the  name  and  lineage  of  each  one,  maid  or  boy,  who  is  to 

take  this  blessed  journey.  No  one  needs  to  rub  out  the  inscription,  for  once  he  had  read 

the  name,  it  fades  away  before  his  eyes.  All  those  now  grown  to  maturity  came  there  as 

children.  Blessed  is  the  mother  who  bore  a  child  destined  to  do  service  there.  Poor  and 

rich  alike  rejoice  if  their  child  is  summoned  to  join  the  company.  They  are  brought  there 

from  many  lands.  From  sinful  shame  they  are  more  protected  than  others,  and  receive 

good  reward  in  heaven.  When  life  dies  for  them  here  they  are  given  perfection  there." 

If  the  Grail's  guardians  are  Templars,  its  actual  custodians  would 

appear  to  be  members  of  a  specific  family.  This  family  seems  to 

possess  numerous  collateral  branches,  some  of  which  their  identity 

often  unknown  even  to  themselves  are  scattered  about  the  world.  But 

other  members  of  the  family  inhabit  the  Grail  of 

Munsalvaesche  fairly  obviously  linked  with  the  legendary  Cathar  castle 

of  The  writer  has  identified  tsalvat,  which  at  least  one  salvaesche 

dwell  a  nu,  as  ontsegur.  Within  Munthe  Grail's  actual  ?~-tuber  of 

enigmatic  figures.  There  is  ("Reponse  de  C'-,eeper  and  bearer,  Repanse 

de  Schoye  course,  A  ~."  =loix  or  "Chosen  Response').  And  there  is,  of 

castle  .ntortas,  the  Fisher  King  and  lord  of  the  Grail  cro  ;,  who  is 

wounded  in  the  genitals  and  unable  to  pro.  ate  or,  alternatively,  to 


307 


die.  As  in  Chretien's  Grail  312  romance,  Anfortas,  for  Wolfram,  is 

Parzival's  uncle.  And  when,  at  the  end  of  the  poem,  the  curse  is  lifted  and  Anfortas  can  at 

last  die,  Parzival  becomes  heir  to  the  Grail  castle. 

The  Grail,  or  the  Grail  family,  calls  certain  individuals  into  its  service  from  the  outside 

world  individuals  who  must  be  initiated  into  some  sort  of  mystery.  At  the  same  time  it 

sends  its  trained  servitors  out  into  the  world  to  perform  actions  on  its  behalf  and 

sometimes  to  occupy  a  throne. 

For  the  Grail,  apparently,  possesses  the  power  to  create  kings: 

Maidens  are  appointed  to  care  for  the  Grail ..  .  That  was  God's  decree,  and  these  maidens 

performed  their  service  before  it.  The  Grail  selects  only  noble  company.  Knights,  devout 

and  good,  are  chosen  to  guard  it.  The  coming  of  the  high  stars  brings  this  people  great 

sorrow,  young  and  old  alike. 

God's  anger  at  them  has  lasted  all  too  long.  When  shall  they  ever  say  yes  to  joy?  ..  .  I  will 

tell  you  something  more,  whose  truth  you  may  well  believe.  A  twofold  chance  is  often 

theirs;  they  both  give  and  receive  profit.  They  receive  young  children  there,  of  noble 

lineage  and  beautiful. 

And  if  anywhere  a  land  loses  its  lord,  if  the  people  there  acknowledge 

the 

Hand  of  God,  and  seek  a  new  lord,  they  are  granted  one  from  the  company 

of  the  Grail.  They  must  treat  him  with  courtesy,  for  the  blessing  of 

God  protects  him.z' 

From  the  above  passage,  it  would  seem  that  at  some  point  in  the  past 

the 

Grail  family  somehow  incurred  God's  wrath.  The  allusion  to  "God's 

anger  at  them'  echoes  numerous  medieval  statements  about  the  Jews.  It 

also  echoes-the  title  of  a  mysterious  book  associated  with  Nicolas 

Flamel  The 

Sacred  Book  of  Abraham  the  Jew,  Prince,  Priest,  Levite,  Astrologer 

and 

Philosopher  to  that  Tribe  of  Jews  who  by  the  Wrath  of  God  were  Dispersed  amongst  the 

Gauls.  And  Flegetanis,  who  Wolfram  says  wrote  the  original  account  of  the  Grail,  is  said 

to  be  descended  from  Solomon.  Could  the  Grail  family  possibly  be  of  Judaic  origin? 

Whatever  the  curse  formerly  visited  upon  the  Grail  family,  it  has  unquestionably  come,  by 

Parzival's  time,  to  enjoy  divine  favour  and  a  great  deal  of  power  as  well. 


308 


And  yet  it  is  rigorously  enjoined,  at  least  in  certain  respects  to 

secrecy  about  its  identity. 

The  men  [of  the  Grail  family]  God  sends  forth  secretly;  the  maidens  leave  openly  ..  .  Thus 

the  maids  are  sent  out  openly  from  the  Grail,  and  the  men  in  secret,  that  they  may  have 

children  who  will  in  turn  one  day  enter  the  service  of  the  Grail,  and  serving,  enhance  its 

company. 

God  can  teach  them  how  to  do  this  .25 

Women  of  the  Grail  family,  then,  when  they  intermarry  with  the  outside  world,  may 

disclose  their  pedigree  and  identity.  The  men,  however,  must  keep  this  information 

scrupulously  concealed  so  much  so,  in  fact,  that  they  may  not  even  allow  questions  about 

their  origins.  The  point,  apparently,  is  a  crucial  one,  for  Wolfram  returns  to  it  most 

emphatically  at  the  very  end  of  the  poem. 

Upon  the  Grail  it  was  now  found  written  that  any  templar  whom  God's 

hand  appointed  master  over  foreign  people  should  forbid  the  asking  of 

his  name  or  race,  and  that  he  should  help  them  to  their  rights.  If  the 

question  is  asked  of  him  they  shall  have  his  help  no  longer  .26 

From  this,  of  course,  derives  the  dilemma  of  Lohengrin,  Parzival's  son,  who  when  queried 

on  his  origin,  must  abandon  his  wife  and  children  and  retire  into  the  seclusion  from 

whence  he  came.  But  why  should  such  stringent  secrecy  be  required?  What  "skeleton  in 

the  closet',  so  to  speak,  might  conceivably  dictate  it?  If  the  Grail  family  were,  in  fact,  of 

Judaic  origin,  that  for  the  age  in  which  Wolfram  was  writing  might  constitute  a  possible 

explanation.  And  such  an  explanation  gains  at  least  some  credence  from  the  Lohengrin 

story.  For  there  are  many  variants  of  the  Lohengrin  story,  and  Lohengrin  is  not  always 

identified  by  the  same  name.  In  some  versions,  he  is  called  Helios  implying  the  sun.  In 

other  versions,  he  is  called  Elie  or  Eli  17  an  unmistakably  Judaic  name. 

In  Robert  de  Boron's  romance  and  in  the  Perlesvaus,  Perceval  is  of 

Judaic  lineage  the  'holy  lineage'  of  Joseph  of  Arimathea.  In  Wolfram's 

poem  this  status,  so  far  as  Parzival  is  concerned,  would  seem  to  be 

incidental.  True, 

Parzival  is  the  nephew  of  the  wounded  Fisher  King  and  thus  related  by 


309 


blood  to  the  Grail  family.  And  though  he  does  not  marry  into  the 

Grail  family  he  is,  in  fact,  already  married  he  still  inherits  the  Grail  castle  and  becomes  its 

new  lord.  But  for  Wolfram  the  protagonist's  pedigree  would  seem  to  be  less  important 

than  the  means  whereby  he  proves  himself  worthy  of  it.  He  must,  in  short,  conform  to 

certain  criteria  dictated  by  the  blood  he  carries  in  his  veins.  And  this  emphasis  would 

clearly  seem  to  indicate  the  importance  Wolfram  ascribes  to  that  blood. 

There  is  no  question  that  Wolfram  does  ascribe  immense  significance  to  a  particular 

bloodline.  If  there  is  a  single  dominant  theme  pervading  not  only  Parzival,  but  his  other 

works  as  well,  it  is  not  so  much  the  Grail  as  the  Grail  family.  Indeed  the  Grail  family 

seems  to  dominate  Wolfram's  mind  to  an  almost  obsessive  degree,  and  he  devotes  far 

more  attention  to  them  and  their  genealogy  than  to  the  mysterious  object  of  which  they  are 

custodians. 

The  genealogy  of  the  Grail  family  can  be  reconstructed  from  a  close 

reading  of  Parzival.  Parzival  himself  is  a  nephew  of  Anfortas,  the 

maimed  Fisher 

King  and  lord  of  the  Grail  castle.  Anfortas,  in  turn,  is  the  son  of 

one 

Frimutel,  and  Frimutel  the  son  of  Titurel.  At  this  point  the  lineage 

becomes  more  entangled.  Eventually,  however,  it  leads  back  to  a 

certain 

Laziliez  which  may  be  a  derivation  of  Lazarus,  the  brother,  in  the 

New 

Testament,  of  Mary  and  Martha.  And  Laziliez's  parents,  the  original  progenitors  of  the 

Grail  family,  are  named  Mazadan  and  Terdelaschoye. 

The  latter  is  obviously  a  Germanic  version  of  a  French  phrase,  "Terre 

de  la 

Choix'  -  "Chosen  Land'.  Mazadan  is  rather  more  obscure.  It  might 

conceivably  derive  from  the  Zoroastrian  Ahura  Mazda,  the  dualist 

principle  of  Light.  At  the  same  time,  it  also,  if  only  phonetically 

perhaps,  suggests 

Masada  -  a  major  bastion  during  the  Judaic  revolt  against  Roman  occupation  in  A.D.  68. 

The  names  Wolfram  ascribes  to  members  of  the  Grail  family  are  thus 

often  provocative  and  suggestive.  At  the  same  time,  however,  they  told 

us  nothing  that  was  historically  useful.  If  we  hoped  to  find  an  actual 

historical  prototype  for  the  Grail  family,  we  would  have  to  look 

elsewhere.  The  clues  were  meagre  enough.  We  knew,  for  example,  that 

the  Grail  family  supposedly  culminated  in  Godfroi  de  Bouillon;  but  that 

did  not  cast  much  light  on 

Godfroi's  mythical  antecedents  except,  of  course,  that  (like  his  real 


310 


antecedents)  they  kept  their  identity  scrupulously  secret.  But 

according  to  Wolfram,  Kyot  found  an  account  of  the 

Grail  story  in  the  annals  of  the  house  of  Anjou,  and  Parzival  himself 

is  said  to  be  of  Angevin  blood.  At  the  least  this  was  extremely 

interesting  for  the  house  of  Anjou  was  closely  associated  with  both  the 

Templars  and  the 

Holy  Land.  Indeed  Fulques,  Count  of  Anjou,  himself  became,  so  to 

speak,  an  "honorary'  or  part  time  Templar.  In  1131,  moreover,  he 

married  Godfroi  de 

Bouillon's  niece,  the  legendary  Melusine,  and  became  king  of  Jerusalem. 

According  to  the  "Prieure  documents',  the  lords  of  Anjou  the 

Plantagenet  family  were  thus  allied  to  the  Merovingian  bloodline.  And 

the  name  of 

Plantagenet  may  even  have  been  intended  to  echo  "Plant-Ard'  or  Plantard. 

Such  connections  were  patchy  and  tenuous.  But  additional  clues  were 

provided  for  us  by  the  geographical  setting  of  Wolfram's  poem.  For  the 

most  part  this  setting  is  France.  In  contrast  to  later  Grail 

chroniclers  Wolfram  even  maintains  that  Arthur's  court,  Camelot,  is 

situated  in  France  quite  specifically  at  Nantes.  Nantes,  now  in 

Brittany,  was  the  westernmost  boundary  of  the  old  Merovingian  realm  at 

the  apex  of  its  power. 2e 

In  a  manuscript  of  Chretien's  version  of  the  Grail  story,  Perceval 

declares  he  was  born  in  "Scaudone'  or  "Sinadon',  or  some  such  place 

that  appears  in  a  number  of  orthographic  variants  and  the  region  is 

described  as  mountainous.  According  to  Wolfram,  Parzival  comes  from 

"Waleis'.  Most  scholars  have  taken  Waleis  to  be  Wales  and  Sinadon,  in 

it  various  spellings,  as  Snowdon  or  Snowdonia.  If  this  is  so,  however, 

certain  insurmountable  problems  arise,  and,  as  one  modern  commentator 

remarks,  "maps  fail  us'.  For  characters  move  constantly  between  Waleis 

and  Arthur's  court  at  Nantes,  as  well  as  other  French  locations, 

without  crossing  any  water!  They  move  overland,  in  short,  and  through 

regions  whose  inhabitants  speak  French.  Was  Wolfram's  geography  simply 

sloppy?  Can  it  possibly  have  been  that  careless?  Or  might  Waleis  not 

be  Wales  after  all?  Two  scholars  have  suggested  that  it  might  be 

Valois,  the  region  of  France  to  the  north-east  of  Paris  but  there  are 

no  mountains  in  Valois,  nor  does  the  rest  of  the  landscape  conform  in 

any  way  to  Wolfram's  description.  At  the  same  time,  however,  there  is 


311 


another  possible  location  for  Waleis  -  a  location  that  is  mountainous, 

that  does  conform  precisely  to  Wolfram's  other  topographical 

descriptions  and  whose  inhabitants  do  speak  French.  This  location  is 

the  Valais  in  Switzerland,  on  the  shores  of  Lake  Leman  to  the  east  of 

Geneva.  It  would  seem,  in  short,  that  Parzival's  homeland  is  neither 

Wales  nor  Valois,  but  Valais.  And  his  actual  birthplace  of  Sinadon  would  not  be  Snowdon 

or  Snowdonia,  but  Sidonensis,  the  capital  of  the  Valais,  And  the  modern  name  of 

Sidonensis,  capital  of  the  Valais,  is  Sion. 

According  to  Wolfram,  then,  Arthur's  court  is  in  Brittany.  Parzival 

would  seem  to  have  been  born  in  Switzerland.  And  the  Grail  family 

itself?  The 

Grail  castle?  Wolfram  provides  an  answer  in  his  most  ambitious  work, 

left  unfinished  at  his  death  and  entitled  Der  Junge  Titurel.  In  this 

evocative  fragment  Wolfram  addressed  himself  to  the  life  of  Titurel, 

father  of 

Anfortas,  and  the  original  builder  of  the  Grail  castle.  Der  ]unge  Titurel  is  very  specific  not 

only  about  genealogical  detail,  but  also  about  the  dimensions,  the  components,  the 

materials,  the  configuration  of  the  Grail  castle  its  circular  chapel,  for  example,  like  those  of 

the  Templars.  And  the  castle  itself  is  situated  in  the  Pyrenees. 

In  addition  to  Der  Junge  Titurel,  Wolfram  left  another  work  unfinished 

at  his  death  the  poem  known  as  Willehalm,  whose  protagonist  is  Guillem 

de 

Gellone,  Merovingian  ruler  of  the  ninth-century  principality  straddling 

the 

Pyrenees.  Guillem  is  said  to  be  associated  with  the  Grail  family. z9  He 

would  thus  seem  to  be  the  only  figure  in  Wolfram's  works  whose 

historical  identity  can  actually  be  determined.  Yet  even  in  his 

treatment  of  the  unidentifiable  figures,  Wolfram's  meticulous  precision 

is  astonishing.  The  more  one  studies  him,  the  more  likely  it  seems 

that  he  is  referring  to  an  actual  group  of  people  not  a  mythic  or 

fictionalised  family,  but  one  that  did  exist  historically,  and  may  well 

have  included  Guillem  de  Gellone.  This  conclusion  becomes  all  the  more 

plausible  when  Wolfram  admits  he  is  hiding  something  that  Parzival  and 

his  other  works  are  not  merely  romances,  but  also  initiation  documents, 


312 


depositories  of  secrets.  The  Grail  and  Cabalism 

As  the  Perlesvaus  suggests,  the  Grail,  at  least  in  part,  would  seem  to  be  an  experience  of 

some  kind.  In  his  excursus  on  the  Grail's  curative  properties  and  its  power  to  ensure 

longevity,  Wolfram  would  also  seem  to  be  implying  something  experiential  as  well  as 

symbolic  a  state  of  mind  or  a  state  of  being.  There  seems  little  question  that  on  one  level 

the  Grail  is  an  initiatory  experience  which  in  modern  terminology  would  be  described  as  a 

'transformation'  or  "altered  state  of  consciousness'.  Alternatively  it  might  be  described  as 

a  "Gnostic  experience',  a  'mystical  experience',  'illumination'  or  "union  with  God'.  It  is 

possible  to  be  even  more  precise  and  place  the  experiential  aspect  of  the  Grail  in  a  very 

specific  context. 

That  context  is  the  Cabala  and  Cabalistic  thought.  Certainly  such 

thought  was  much  'in  the  air'  at  the  time  the  Grail  romances  were 

composed.  There  was  a  famous  Cabalistic  school  at  Toledo,  for 

instance,  where  Kyot  is  said  to  have  learned  of  the  Grail.  There  were 

other  schools  at  Gerona, 

Montpellier  and  elsewhere  in  the  south  of  France.  And  it  would  hardly  seem  coincidental 

that  there  was  also  such  a  school  at  Troyes.  It  dated  from  1 070  -  Godfroi  de  Bouillon's 

time  and  was  conducted  by  one  Rashi,  perhaps  the  most  famous  of  medieval  Cabalists. 

It  is  impossible  here,  of  course,  to  do  justice  to  the  Cabala  or  Cabalistic  thought. 

Nevertheless  certain  points  must  be  made  in  order  to  establish  the  connection  between 

Cabalism  and  the  Grail  romances. 

Very  briefly  then, 

Cabalism  might  be  described  as  "esoteric  Judaism'  -  a  practical 

psychological  methodology  of  uniquely  Judaic  origin  designed  to  induce 

a  dramatic  transformation  of  consciousness.  In  this  respect  it  may  be 

viewed  as  a  Judaic  equivalent  of  similar  methodologies  or  disciplines 

in  Hindu, 

Buddhist  and  Taoist  tradition  certain  forms  of  yoga  for  example,  or 

of 

Zen. 

Like  its  Eastern  equivalents,  Cabalistic  training  entails  a  series  of 

rituals  a  structured  sequence  of  successive  initiatory  experiences 

leading  the  practitioner  to  ever  more  radical  modifications  of 

consciousness  and  cognition.  And  though  the  meaning  and  significance 

of  such  modifications  is  subject  to  interpretation,  their  reality,  as 


313 


psychological  phenomena,  is  beyond  dispute.  Of  the  "stages'  of 

Cabalistic  initiation,  one  of  the  most  important  is  the  stage  known  as  Tiferet.  In  the  Tiferet 

experience  the  individual  is  said  to  pass  beyond  the  world  of  form  into  the  formless  or,  in 

contemporary  terms,  to  'transcend  his  ego'.  Symbolically  speaking  this  consists  of  a  kind 

of  sacrificial  "death'  the  "death'  of  the  ego,  of  one's  sense  of  individuality  and  the  isolation 

such  individuality  entails;  and,  of  course,  a  rebirth,  or  resurrection,  into  another  dimension, 

of  all-encompassing  unity  and  harmony.  In  Christian  adaptations  of  Cabalism  Tiferet  was 

therefore  associated  with  Jesus. 

For  medieval  Cabalists  the  initiation  into  Tiferet  was  associated  with  certain  specific 

symbols.  These  included  a  hermit  or  guide  or  wise  old  man,  a  majestic  king,  a  child,  a 

sacrificed  god.3  In  time  other  symbols  were  added  as  well  a  truncated  pyramid,  for 

example,  a  cube  and  a  rose  cross. 

The  relation  of  these  symbols  to  the  Grail  romances  is  sufficiently 

apparent.  In  every  Grail  narrative  there  is  a  wise  old  hermit 

Perceval's  or  Parzival's  uncle  frequently  who  acts  as  a  spiritual 

guide.  In 

Wolfram's  poem  the  Grail  as  "stone'  may  possibly  correspond  to  the  cube. 

And  in  the  Perlesvaus  the  various  manifestations  of  the  Grail 

correspond  almost  precisely  to  the  symbols  of  Tiferet.  Indeed,  the 

Perlesvaus  in  itself  establishes  a  crucial  link  between  the  Tiferet 

experience  and  the 

Grail.3' 

The  Play  on  Words 

We  could  thus  identify  the  experiential  aspect  of  the  Grail  and  connect 

it  quite  precisely  with  Cabalism.  This  imparted  another  seemingly 

incongruous 

Judaic  element  to  the  Grail's  supposedly  Christian  character.  But  whatever  the  Grail's 

experiential  aspects,  there  were  other  aspects  as  well  aspects  which  we  could  not  ignore 

and  which  were  of  paramount  importance-to  our  story.  These  aspects  were  historical  and 

genealogical. 

Again  and  again,  the  Grail  romances  had  confronted  us  with  a  pattern  of 

a  distinctly  mundane  and  un  mystical  nature.  Again  and  again,  there 

was  a  callow  knight  who,  by  dint  of  certain  tests  that  proved  him 

'worthy',  was  initiated  into  some  monumental  secret.  Again  and  again, 


314 


this  secret  was  closely  guarded  by  an  order  of  some  sort,  apparently 

chivalric  in  composition.  Again  and  again,  the  secret  was  in  some  way  associated  with  a 

specific  family.  Again  and  again,  the  protagonist  by  intermarriage  with  this  family,  by  his 

own  lineage  or  by  both  became  lord  of  the  Grail  and  everything  connected  with  it.  On  this 

level,  at  least,  we  seemed  to  be  dealing  with  something  of  a  concrete  historical  character. 

One  can  become  lord  of  a  castle  or  a  group  of  people.  One  can  become  heir  to  certain 

lands  or  even  a  certain  heritage.  But  one  cannot  become  lord  or  heir  to  an  experience. 

Was  it  relevant,  we  wondered,  that  the  Grail  romances,  when  subjected 

to  close  scrutiny,  rested  sb  crucially  on  matters  of  lineage  and 

genealogy,  pedigree,  heritage  and  inheritance?  Was  it  relevant  that 

the  lineage  and  genealogy  in  question  should  overlap  at  certain  key 

points  those  which  had  figured  so  saliently  in  our  inquiry  the  house  of 

Anjou,  for  instance, 

Guillem  de  Gellone  and  Godfroi  de  Bouillon?  Could  the  mystery  attached 

to 

Rennes-leChateau  and  the  Prieure  de  Sion  relate,  in  some  as  yet  obscure  way,  to  that 

mysterious  object  called  the  Holy  Grail?  Had  we,  in  fact,  been  following  in  Parzival's 

footsteps  and  conducting  our  own  modern  Grail  quest? 

The  evidence  suggested  that  this  was  a  very  real  possibility.  And  indeed  there  was  one 

more  crucial  piece  of  evidence  which  tilted  the  balance  decisively  in  favour  of  such  a 

conclusion.   In  many  of  the  earlier  manuscripts,  the  Grail  is  called  the  "Sangraal';  and 

even  in  the  later  version  by  Malory,  it  is  called  the  "Sangreal'.  It  is  likely  that  some  such 

form  "Sangraal'  or  "Sangreal'  was  in  fact  the  original  one.  It  is  also  likely  that  that  one 

word  was  subsequently  broken  in  the  wrong  place.  In  other  words  "Sangraal'  or 

"Sangreal'  may  not  have  been  intended  to  divide  into  "San  Graal'  or  "San  Greal'  but  into 

"Sang  Raal'  or  "Sang  Real'.  Or,  to  employ  the  modern  spelling,  Sang  Royal.  Royal  blood. 

In  itself,  such  wordplay  might  be  provocative  but  hardly  conclusive. 

Taken  in  conjunction  with  the  emphasis  on  genealogy  and  lineage, 

however,  there  is  not  much  room  for  doubt.  And,  for  that  matter,  the 

traditional  associations  the  cup  which  caught  Jesus's  blood,  for 

instance  would  seem  to  reinforce  this  supposition.  Quite  clearly,  the 


315 


Grail  would  appear  to  pertain  in  some  way  to  blood  and  a  bloodline. This  raises,  of  course, 

certain  obvious  questions.  Whose  blood?  And  whose  bloodline? 

The  Lost  Kings  and  the  Grail 

The  Grail  romances  were  not  the  only  poems  of  their  kind  to  find  a  receptive  audience  in 

the  late  twelfth  and  early  thirteenth  centuries. 

There  were  many  others  Tristan  and  Isolde,  for  instance,  and  Eric  and 

Enide  composed  in  some  cases  by  Chretien  himself,  in  some  cases  by 

contemporaries  and  countrymen  of  Wolfram,  such  as  Hartmann  von  Aue  and 

Gottfried  von 

Strassburg.  These  romances  make  no  mention  whatever  of  the  Grail.  But  they  are  clearly 

set  in  the  same  mythico-historical  period  as  the  Grail  romances,  because  they  depend 

more  or  less  heavily  on  Arthur.  As  far  as  he  can  be  dated,  Arthur  seems  to  have  lived  in 

the  late  fifth  and/or  early  sixth  centuries.  In  other  words,  Arthur  lived  at  the  peak  of 

Merovingian  ascendancy  in  Gaul,  and  was,  in  fact,  closely  contemporary  with  Clovis.  If 

the  term  "Ursus'  -  bear'  was  applied  to  the  Merovingian  royal  line,  the  name  "Arthur',  which 

also  means  'bear'  may  have  been  an  attempt  to  confer  a  comparable  dignity  on  a  British 

chieftain. 

For  the  writers  at  the  time  of  the  Crusades,  the  Merovingian  era  seems 

to  have  been  of  some  crucial  importance  so  much  so,  in  fact,  that  it 

provided  the  backdrop  for  romances  which  had  nothing  to  do  with 

either 

Arthur  or  the  Grail.  One  such  is  the  national  epic  of  Germany,  the 

Nibelungenlied  or  Song  of  the  Nibelungen,  on  which,  in  the  nineteenth 

century,  Wagner  drew  so  heavily  for  his  monumental  operatic  sequence, 

The 

Ring.  This  musical  opus,  and  the  poem  from  which  it  derives,  are  generally  dismissed  as 

pure  fantasy.  Yet  the  Nibelungs  were  a  real  people,  a  Germanic  tribe  who  lived  in  late 

Merovingian  times. 

Moreover,  many  of  the  names  in  the  Nibelungenlied  Siegmund,  for 

instance,  Siegfried,  Sieglinde, 

Brunhilde  and  Kriemhild  are  patently  Merovingian  names.  Many  episodes  in  the  poem 

closely  parallel,  and  may  even  refer  to,  specific  events  of  Merovingian  times. 


316 


Although  it  has  nothing  to  do  with  either  Arthur  or  the  Grail,  the 

Nibelungenlied  is  further  evidence  that  the  Merovingian  epoch  exercised 

a  powerful  hold  on  the  imaginations  of  twelfth-  and  thirteenth-century 

poets  as  if  they  knew  something  crucial  about  that  epoch  which  later 

writers  and  historians  did  not.  In  any  case,  modern  scholars  concur 

that  the  Grail  romances,  like  the  Nibelungenlied,  refer  to  the 

Merovingian  age.  In  part,  of  course,  this  conclusion  would  appear 

self-evident,  given  the  prominence  of  Arthur.  But  it  also  rests  on 

specific  indications  provided  by  the  Grail  romances  themselves.  The 

(Zueste  del  Saint 

Graal,  for  example,  composed  between  1215  and  1230,  declares  explicitly 

that  the  events  of  the  Grail  story  occurred  precisely  454  years  after 

the  resurrection  of  Jesus. 3z  Assuming  Jesus  died  in  A.D.  33,  the  Grail 

saga  would  thus  have  enacted  itself  in  A.D.  487  during  the  first  flush 

of 

Merovingian  power,  and  a  mere  nine  years  before  the  baptism  of  Clovis. 

There  was  nothing  revolutionary  or  controversial,  therefore,  in 

connecting  the  Grail  romances  with  the  Merovingian  age.  None  the  less 

question  of  emphasis  which,  because  of  Arthur,  has  been  placed 

primarily  on  Britain.  As  a  result  of  this  distinctly  British  emphasis, 

we  had  not  automatically  associated  the  Grail  with  the  Merovingian 

dynasty.  And  yet  Wolfram  insists  that 

Arthur's  court  is  at  Nantes  and  that  his  poem  is  set  in  France.  The 

same  assertion  is  made  by  other  Grail  romances  the  Queste  del  Saint 

Graal,  for  instance.  And  there  are  medieval  traditions  which  maintain 

the  Grail  was  not  brought  to  Britain  by  Joseph  of  Arimathea,  but  to 

France  by  the 

Magdalene. 

We  now  began  to  wonder  whether  the  pre-eminence  assigned  to  Britain  by 

commentators  on  the  Grail  romances  had  not  perhaps  been  misplaced, 33 

and  whether  the  romances  in  fact  referred  primarily  to  events  on  the 

continent  more  particularly  to  events  in  France.  And  we  began  to 

suspect  that  the 

Grail  itself,  the  "blood  royal',  actually  referred  to  the  blood  royal  of  the  Merovingian 

dynasty  a  blood  which  was  deemed  to  be  sacred  and  invested  with-magical  or  miraculous 

properties. 

Perhaps  the  Grail  romances  constituted,  at  least  in  part,  a  symbolic  or 

allegorical  account  of  certain  events  of  the  Merovingian  epoch.  And 


317 


perhaps  we  had  already  encountered  some  of  those  events  in  the  course 

of  our  investigation.  A  marriage  with  some  special  family,  for 

example,  which,  shrouded  by  time,  engendered  the  legends  attending  the 

dual  paternity  of  Merovee.  Or  perhaps,  in  the 

Grail  family,  a  representation  of  the  clandestine  perpetuation  of  the 

Merovingian  bloodline  les  rois  perdus  or  "lost  kings'  in  the  mountains  and  caves  of  the 

Razes.  Or  perhaps  that  bloodline's  exile  in  England  during  the  late  ninth  and  early  tenth 

centuries.  And  the  secret  but  august  dynastic  alliances  whereby  the  Merovingian  vine, 

like  that  of  the  Grail  family,  eventually  bore  fruit  in  Godfroi  de  Bouillon  and  the  house  of 

Lorraine. 

Perhaps  Arthur  himself  the  "bear'  was  only  incidentally  related  to 

the 

Celtic  or  Gallo-Roman  chieftain.  Perhaps  the  Arthur  in  the  Grail  romances  was  really 

"Ursus'  another  name  for  "bear'.  Perhaps  the  legendary  Arthur  in  the  chronicles  of 

Geoffrey  of  Monmouth  had  been  appropriated  by  writers  on  the  Grail  and  deliberately 

transformed  into  the  vehicle  for  a  quite  different,  and  secret,  tradition.  If  so,  this  would 

explain  why  the  Templars  -established  by  the  Prieure  de  Sion  as  guardians  of  the 

Merovingian  bloodline  were  declared  to  be  guardians  of  the  Grail  and  the  Grail  family. 

If  the  Grail  family  and  the  Merovingian  bloodline  were  one  and  the 

same,  the 

Templars  would  indeed  have  been  the  guardians  of  the  Grail  at  the  time, 

more  or  less,  that  the  Grail  romances  were  composed.  Their  presence  in 

the 

Grail  romances  would  not,  therefore,  have  been  anachronistic. 

The  hypothesis  was  intriguing,  but  it  raised  one  extremely  crucial 

question.  The  romances  may  have  been  set  in  Merovingian  times,  but 

they  linked  the  Grail  quite  explicitly  to  the  origins  of  Christianity 

to 

Jesus,  to  Joseph  of  Arimathea,  to  the  Magdalene.  Some  of  them,  in 

fact,  go  even  further.  In  Robert  de  Boron's  poem,  Galahad  is  said  to 

be  Joseph  of 

Arimathea's  son  although  the  identity  of  the  knight's  mother  is  unclear. 

And  the  (Zueste  del  Saint  Graal  calls  Galahad,  like  Jesus,  a  scion  of 

the  house  of  David,  and  identifies  Galahad  with  Jesus  himself.  Indeed, 

the  very  name  Galahad,  according  to  modern  scholars,  derives  from  the 

name  Gilead,  which  was  deemed  a  mystical  designation  for  Jesus  .34 


318 


If  the  Grail  could  be,  identified  with  the  Merovingian  bloodline,  what 

was  its  connection  with  Jesus?  Why  should  something  so  intimately  associated  with 

Jesus  also  be  associated  with  the  Merovingian  epoch?" 

How  were  we  to  reconcile  the  chronological  discrepancy  the  relation 

between  something  so  pertinent  to  Jesus  and  events  that  occurred  at 

least  four  centuries  later?  How  could  the  Grail  refer,  on  the  one 

hand,  to  the  Merovingian  age  and,  on  the  other,  to  something  brought  by 

Joseph  of 

Arimathea  to  England  or  the  Magdalene  to  France? 

Even  on  a  symbolic  level  such  questions  asserted  themselves.  The 

Grail,  for  example,  pertained  in  some  way  to  blood.  Even  without  the 

breaking  of 

"Sangraal'  into  "Sang  raal',  the  Grail  was  said  to  have  been  a 

receptacle  for  Jesus's  blood.  How  could  this  be  related  to  the 

Merovingians?  And  why  should  it  be  related  to  them  at  precisely  the 

time  it  was  during  the 

Crusades,  when  Merovingian  heads  wore  the  crown  of  the  kingdom  of 

Jerusalem,  protected  by  the  Order  of  the  Temple  and  the  Prieure  de  Sion? 

The  Grail  romances  stress  the  importance  of  Jesus's  blood.  They  also 

stress  a  lineage  of  some  kind.  And,  given  such  factors  as  the  Grail 

family's  culmination  in  Godfroi  de  Bouillon,  they  would  seem  to  pertain 

to 

Merovingian  blood. 

Could  there  possibly  be  some  connection  between  these  two  apparently 

discordant  elements?  Could  the  blood  of  Jesus  in  some  way  be  related 

to  the  blood  royal  of  the  Merovingians?  Could  the  lineage  connected 

with  the 

Grail,  brought  into  Western  Europe  shortly  after  the  Crucifixion,  be  intertwined  with  the 

lineage  of  the  Merovingians? 

The  Need  to  Synthesise 

At  this  point  we  paused  to  review  the  evidence  at  our  disposal.  It  was  leading  us  in  a 

startling  yet  unmistakable  direction.  But  why,  we  wondered,  had  this  evidence  never  been 

subpoenaed  by  scholars  before? 

It  had  certainly  been  readily  available,  and  for  centuries.  Why  had  no 

one,  to  our  knowledge,  ever  synthesised  it  and  drawn  what  would  seem  to 

be  fairly  obvious,  if  only  speculative,  conclusions?  Granted,  such 

conclusions  a  few  centuries  ago  would  have  been  rigorously  taboo  and, 


319 


if  published,  severely  punished.  But  there  had  been  no  such  danger 

for  at  least  the  last  two  hundred  years.  Why,  then,  had  the  fragments  of  the  puzzle  not 

hitherto  been  assembled  into  a  coherent  whole? 

The  answers  to  these  questions,  we  realised,  lay  in  our  own  age  and  the 

modes  or  habits  of  thought  which  characterise  it.  Since  the 

so-called 

"Enlightenment'  of  the  eighteenth  century,  the  orientation  of  Western  culture  and 

consciousness  had  been  towards  analysis,  rather  than  synthesis. 

As  a  result,  our  age  is  one  of  ever  increasing  specialisation.  In  accordance  with  this 

tendency,  modern  scholarship  lays  inordinate  emphasis  on  specialisation  which,  as  the 

modern  university  attests,  implies  and  entails  the  segregation  of  knowledge  into  distinct 

"disciplines'.  In  consequence,  the  diverse  spheres  covered  by  our  inquiry  have 

traditionally  been  segmented  into  quite  separate  compartments.  In  each  compartment  the 

relevant  material  has  been  duly  explored  and  evaluated  by  specialists,  or  "experts'  in  the 

field.  But  few,  if  any,  of  these  "experts'  have  endeavoured  to  establish  a  connection 

between  their  particular  field  and  others  that  may  overlap  it.  Indeed  such  "experts'  tend 

generally  to  regard  fields  other  than  their  own  with  considerable  suspicion  spurious  at 

worst,  at  best  irrelevant.  And  eclectic  or  "interdisciplinary'  research  is  often  actively 

discouraged  as  being,  among  other  things,  too  speculative. 

There  have  been  numerous  treatises  on  the  Grail  romances,  their  origins 

and  development,  their  cultural  impact,  their  literary  quality.  And 

there  have  been  numerous  studies,  valid  and  otherwise,  of  the  Templars 

and  the 

Crusades.  But  few  experts  on  the  Grail  romances  have  been  historians, 

while  fewer  still  have  displayed  much  interest  in  the  complex,  often 

sordid  and  not  very  romantic  history  behind  the  Templars  and  the 

Crusades.  Similarly  historians  of  the  Templars  and  the  Crusades  have, 

like  all  historians,  adhered  closely  to  "factual'  records  and 

documents.  The  Grail  romances  have  been  dismissed  as  mere  fiction,  as 

nothing  more  than  a  "cultural  phenomenon',  a  species  of  "by-product' 

generated  by  the  "imagination  of  the  age'.  To  suggest  to  such  an 

historian  that  the  Grail  romances  might  contain  a  kernel  of  historical 


320 


truth  would  be  tantamount  to  heresy  even  though  Schliemann,  more  than 

True,  various  occult  writers,  proceeding  primarily  on  the  basis  of 

wishful  thinking,  have  given  literal  credence  to  the  legends,  claiming 

that,  in  some  mystical  way,  the  Templars  were  custodians  of  the  Grail 

whatever  the 

Grail  might  be.  But  there  has  been  no  serious  historical  study  that 

endeavours  to  establish  any  real  connection.  The  Templars  are  regarded 

as  fact,  the  Grail  as  fiction,  and  no  association  between  the  two  is 

acknowledged  possible.  And  if  the  Grail  romances  have  thus  been 

neglected  by  scholars  and  historians  of  the  period  in  which  they  were 

written,  it  is  hardly  surprising  that  they  have  been  neglected  by 

experts  on  earlier  epochs.  Quite  simply,  it  would  not  occur  to  a 

specialist  in  the  Merovingian  age  to  suspect  that  the  Grail  romances 

might,  in  any  way,  shed  light  on  the  subject  of  his  study,  if,  indeed, 

he  has  any  knowledge  whatever  of  the 

Grail  romances.  But  is  it  not  a  serious  omission  that  no  Merovingian  scholar  we  have 

encountered  even  makes  mention  of  the  Arthurian  legends  which,  chronologically 

speaking,  refer  to  the  very  epoch  in  which  he  claims  expertise? 

If  historians  are  unprepared  to  make  such  connections,  Biblical  scholars  are  even  less 

prepared  to  do  so.  During  the  last  few  decades  a  welter  of  books  has  appeared  - 

according  to  which  Jesus  was  a  pacifist,  an  Essene,  a  mystic,  a  Buddhist,  a  sorcerer,  a 

revolutionary,  a  homosexual,  even  a  mushroom.  But  despite  this  plethora  of  material  on 

Jesus  and  the  historical  context  of  the  New  Testament,  not  one  author,  to  our  knowledge, 

has  touched  on  the  question  of  the  Grail. 

Why  should  he?  Why  should  an  expert  on 

Biblical  history  have  any  interest  in,  or  knowledge  of,  a  spate  of  fantastic  romantic  poems 

composed  in  Western  Europe  more  than  a  thousand  years  later?  It  would  seem 

inconceivable  that  the  Grail  romances  could  in  any  way  elucidate  the  mysteries 

surrounding  the  New  Testament. 

But  reality,  history  and  knowledge  cannot  be  segmented  and  compartmentalised 

according  to  the  arbitrary  filing  system  of  the  human  intellect.  And  while  documentary 

evidence  may  be  hard  to  come  by,  it  is  self-evident  that  traditions  may  survive  for  a 

thousand  years,  then  surface  in  a  written  form  that  does  illuminate  previous  events. 


321 


Certain  Irish  sagas,  for  instance,  can  reveal  a  great  deal  about  the 

shift  from  matriarchal  to  patriarchal  society  in  Ancient  Ireland.  Without  Homer's  work, 

composed  long  after  the  fact,  no  one  would  even  have  heard  of  the  siege  of  Troy.  And 

War  and  Peace  although  written  more  than  half  a  century  later  can  tell  us  more  than  most 

history  books,  more  even  than  most  official  documents,  about  Russia  during  the 

Napoleonic  era. 

Any  responsible  researcher  must,  like  a  detective,  pursue  whatever  clues  come  to  hand, 

however  seemingly  improbable.  One  should  not  dismiss  material  a  priori,  out  of  hand, 

because  it  threatens  to  lead  into  unlikely  or  unfamiliar  territory.  The  events  of  the 

Watergate  scandal,  for  instance,  were  reconstructed  initially  from  a  multitude  of  ostensibly 

disparate  fragments,  each  meaningless  in  itself,  and  with  no  apparent  connection  between 

them.  Indeed,  some  of  the  often  childish  "dirty  tricks'  must  have  seemed,  to  investigators 

at  the  time,  as  divorced  from  the  broader  issues  as  the  Grail  romances  might  seem  from 

the  New  Testament.  And  the  Watergate  scandal  was  confined  to  a  single  country  and  a 

time-span  of  a  few  short  years.  The  subject  of  our  investigation  encompasses  the  whole 

of  Western  culture,  and  a  time-span  of  two  millennia. 

What  is  necessary  is  an  interdisciplinary  approach  to  one's  chosen  material  -  a  mobile  and 

flexible  approach  that  permits  one  to  move  freely  between  disparate  disciplines,  across 

space  and  time.  One  must  be  able  to  link  data  and  make  connections  between  people, 

events  and  phenomena  widely  divorced  from  each  other.  One  must  be  able  to  move,  as 

necessity  dictates,  from  the  third  to  the  twelfth  to  the  seventh  to  the  eighteenth  centuries, 

drawing  on  a  varied  spectrum  of  sources  early  ecclesiastical  texts,  the  Grail  romances, 

Merovingian  records  and  chronicles,  the  writings  of  Freemasonry. 

In  short,  one  must  synthesise  for  only  by  such  synthesis  can  one  discern  the  underlying 

continuity,  the  unified  and  coherent  fabric,  which  lies  at  the  core  of  any  historical  problem. 

Such  an  approach  is  neither  particularly  revolutionary,  in  principle,  nor  particularly 

controversial. 

It  is  rather  like  taking  a  tenet  of  contemporary  Church  dogma  the 

Immaculate  Conception,  for  instance,  or  the  obligatory  celibacy  of 

priests  and  using  it  to  illumine  early  Christianity.  In  much  the  same 

way  the 


322 


Grail  romances  may  be  used  to  shed  some  significant  light  on  the  New 

Testament  on  the  career  and  identity  of  Jesus. 

Finally  it  is  not  sufficient  to  confine  oneself  exclusively  to  facts.  One  must  also  discern  the 

repercussions  and  ramifications  of  facts,  as  those  repercussions  and  ramifications  radiate 

through  the  centuries  often  in  the  form  of  myth  and  legend.  True,  the  facts  themselves 

may  be  distorted  in  the  process,  like  an  echo  reverberating  among  cliffs.  But  if  the  voice 

itself  cannot  be  located,  the  echo,  however  distorted,  may  yet  point  the  way  to  it.  Facts,  in 

short,  are  like  pebbles  dropped  into  the  pool  of  history.  They  disappear  quickly,  often 

without  a  trace.  But  they  generate  ripples  which,  if  one's  perspective  is  broad  enough, 

enable  one  to  pinpoint  where  the  pebble  originally  fell.  Guided  by  the  ripples,  one  may 

then  dive  or  dredge  or  adopt  whatever  approach  one  wishes.  The  point  is  that  the  ripples 

permit  one  to  locate  what  might  otherwise  be  irrecoverable. 

It  was  now  becoming  apparent  to  us  that  everything  we  had  studied  during  our 

investigation  was  but  a  ripple  -which,  monitored  correctly,  might  direct  us  to  a  single  stone 

cast  into  the  pool  of  history  two  thousand  years  ago. 

Our  Hypothesis 

The  Magdalene  had  figured  prominently  throughout  our  inquiry. 

According  to  certain  medieval  legends,  the  Magdalene  brought  the  Holy 

Grail  or  "Blood 

Royal'  into  France.  The  Grail  is  closely  associated  with  Jesus.  And 

the 

Grail,  on  one  level  at  least,  relates  in  some  way  to  blood  -or,  more  specifically,  to  a 

bloodline  and  lineage.  The  Grail  romances  are  for  the  most  part,  however,  set  in 

Merovingian  times.  But  they  were  not  composed  until  after  Godfroi  de  Bouillon  fictional 

scion  of  the  Grail  family  and  actual  scion  of  the  Merovingians  was  installed,  in  everything 

but  name,  as  king  of  Jerusalem. 

If  we  had  been  dealing  with  anyone  other  than  Jesus  if  we  had  been 

dealing  with  a  personage  such  as  Alexander,  for  example,  or  Julius 

Caesar  these  fragmentary  shreds  of  evidence  alone  would  have  led, 

almost  ineluctably,  to  one  glaring  self-evident  conclusion.  We  drew 


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that  conclusion,  however  controversial  and  explosive  it  might  be.  We 

began  to  test  it  at  least  as  a  tentative  hypothesis.  Perhaps  the 

Magdalene  that  elusive  woman  in  the  Gospels  was  in  fact  Jesus's  wife. 

Perhaps  their  union  produced  offspring.  After  the  Crucifixion,  perhaps 

the 

Magdalene,  with  at  least  one  child,  was  smuggled  to  Gaul  where 

established 

Jewish  communities  already  existed  and  where,  in  consequence,  she  might  have  found  a 

refuge.  Perhaps  there  was,  in  short,  an  hereditary  bloodline  descended  directly  from 

Jesus.  Perhaps  this  bloodline,  this  supreme  sang  real;  then  perpetuated  itself,  intact  and 

incognito,  for  some  four  hundred  years  which  is  not,  after  all,  a  very  long  time  for  an 

important  lineage. 

Perhaps  there  were  dynastic  intermarriages  not  only  with  other  Jewish  families,  but  with 

Romans  and  Visigoths  as  well.  And  perhaps  in  the  fifth  century  Jesus's  lineage  became 

allied  with  the  royal  line  of  the  Franks,  thereby  engendering  the  Merovingian  dynasty. 

If  this  sketchy  hypothesis  was  in  any  sense  true,  it  would  serve  to  explain  a  great  many 

elements  in  our  investigation.  It  would'  explain  the  extraordinary  status  accorded  the 

Magdalene,  and  the  cult  significance  she  attained  during  the  Crusades.  It  would  explain 

the  sacred  status  accorded  the  Merovingians.  It  would  explain  the  legendary  birth  of 

Merovee  child  of  two  fathers,  one  of  them  a  symbolic  marine  creature  from  beyond  the 

sea,  a  marine  creature  which,  like  Jesus,  might  be  equated  with  the  mystical  fish.  It  would 

explain  the  pact  between  the  Roman  Church  and  Clovis's  bloodline  for  would  not  a  pact 

with  Jesus's  lineal  descendants  be  the  obvious  pact  for  a  church  founded  in  his  name?  It 

would  explain  the  apparently  incommensurate  stress  laid  on  the  assassination  of 

Dagobert  II  for  the  Church,  by  being  party  to  that  murder,  would  have  been  guilty  not  only 

of  regicide,  but,  according  to  its  own  tenets,  of  a  form  of  deicide  as  well.  It  would  explain 

the  attempt  to  eradicate  Dagobert  from  history. 

It  would  explain  the  Carolingians'  obsession  to  legitimi  se  themselves, 

as  Holy 

Roman  Emperors,  by  claiming  a  Merovingian  pedigree. 

A  bloodline  descended  from  Jesus  through  Dagobert  would  also  explain 

the 

Grail  family  in  the  romances  the  secrecy  which  surrounds  it,  its 

exalted  status,  the  impotent  Fisher  King  unable  to  rule,  the  process 

whereby 

Parzival  or  Perceval  became  heir  to  the  Grail  castle. 


324 


Finally,  it  would  explain  the  mystical  pedigree  of  Godfroi  de  Bouillon 

son  or  grandson  of  Lohengrin,  grandson  or  great-grandson  of  Parzival,  scion  of  the  Grail 

family.  And  if  Godfroi  were  descended  from  Jesus,  his  triumphant  capture  of  Jerusalem  in 

1099  would  have  entailed  far  more  than  simply  rescuing  the  Holy  Sepulchre  from  the 

infidel.  Godfroi  would  have  been  reclaiming  his  own  rightful  heritage. 

We  had  already  guessed  that  the  references  to  viticulture  throughout  our  investigation 

symbolised  dynastic  alliances.  On  the  basis  of  our  hypothesis,  viticulture  now  seemed  to 

symbolise  the  process  whereby  Jesus  who  identifies  himself  repeatedly  with  the  vine 

perpetuated  his  lineage.  As  if  in  confirmation,  we  discovered  a  carved  door  depicting 

Jesus  as  a  cluster  of  grapes.  This  door  was  in  Sion,  Switzerland. 

Our  hypothetical  scenario  was  both  logically  consistent  and  intriguing.  As  yet,  however,  it 

was  also  preposterous.  Attractive  though  it  might  be,  it  was,  as  yet,  much  too  sketchy  and 

rested  on  far  too  flimsy  a  foundation. 

Although  it  explained  many  things,  it  could  not  yet  in  itself  be  supported. 

There  were  still  too  many  holes  in  it,  too  many  inconsistencies  and 

anomalies,  too  many  loose  ends.  Before  we  could  seriously  entertain  or 

consider  it,  we  would  have  to  determine  whether  there  was  any  real 

evidence  to  sustain  it.  In  an  attempt  to  find  such  evidence  we  began 

to  explore  the 

Gospels,  the  historical  context  of  the  New  Testament  and  the  writings 


325 


of  the  early  Church  fathers.  12  The  Priest-King  Who  Never  Ruled 

Most  people  today  speak  of  "Christianity'  as  if  it  were  a  single 

specific  thing  a  coherent,  homogeneous  and  unified  entity.  Needless  to 

say 

"Christianity'  is  nothing  of  the  sort.  As  everyone  knows,  there  are 

numerous  forms  of  "Christianity':  Roman  Catholicism,  for  example,  or 

the  Church  of 

England  initiated  by  Henry  VIII.  There  are  the  various  other  denominations  of 

Protestantism  from  the  original  Lutheranism  and  Calvinism  of  the  sixteenth  century  to 

such  relatively  recent  developments  as  Unitarianism. 

There  are  multitudinous  'fringe'  or  "evangelical'  congregations,  such 

as  the 

Seventh  Day  Adventists  and  Jehovah's  Witnesses.  And  there  are  assorted 

contemporary  sects  and.  cults,  like  the  Children  of  God  and  the 

Unification 

Church  of  the  Reverend  Moon.  If  one  surveys  this  bewildering  spectrum 

of  beliefs  from  the  rigidly  dogmatic  and  conservative  to  the  radical 

and  ecstatic  it  is  difficult  to  determine  what  exactly  constitutes 

"Christianity'. 

If  there  is  a  single  factor  that  does  permit  one  to  speak  of 

Christianity',  a  single  factor  that  does  link  the  otherwise  diverse  and 

divergent 

"Christian'  creeds,  it  is  the  New  Testament,  and  more  particularly  the 

unique  status  ascribed  by  the  New  Testament  to  Jesus,  his  Crucifixion 

and 

Resurrection.  Even  if  one  does  not  subscribe  to  the  literal  or  historical  truth  of  those 

events,  acceptance  of  their  symbolic  significance  generally  suffices  for  one  to  be 

considered  a  Christian. 

If  there  is  any  unity,  then,  in  the  diffuse  phenomenon  called 

Christianity,  it  resides  in  the  New  Testament  and,  more  specifically, 

in  the  accounts  of  Jesus  known  as  the  Four  Gospels.  These  accounts  are 

popularly  regarded  as  the  most  authoritative  on  record:  and  for  many 

Christians  they  are  assumed  to  be  both  coherent  and  unimpugnable.  From 


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childhood  one  is  led  to  believe  that  the  "story'  of  Jesus,  as  it  is 

preserved  in  the  Four  Gospels,  is,  if  not  Godinspired,  at  least  definitive.  The  four 

evangelists,  supposed  authors  of  the  Gospels,  are  deemed  to  be  unimpeachable 

witnesses  who  reinforce  and  confirm  each  other's  testimony.  Of  the  people  who  today  call 

themselves  Christians,  relatively  few  are  aware  of  the  fact  that  the  Four  Gospels  not  only 

contradict  each  other,  but,  at  times,  violently  disagree. 

So  far  as  popular  tradition  is  concerned,  the  origin  and  birth  of  Jesus  are  well  enough 

known.  But  in  reality  the  Gospels,  on  which  that  tradition  is  based,  are  considerably  more 

vague  on  the  matter.  Only  two  of  the  Gospels  -Matthew  and  Luke  say  anything  at  all 

about  Jesus's  origins  and  birth;  and  they  are  flagrantly  at  odds  with  each  other.  According 

to  Matthew,  for  example,  Jesus  was  an  aristocrat,  if  not  a  rightful  and  legitimate  king  - 

descended  from  David  via  Solomon. 

According  to  Luke,  on  the  other  hand, 

Jesus's  family,  though  descended  from  the  house  of  David,  was  of  somewhat  less  exalted 

stock;  and  it  is  on  the  basis  of  Mark's  account  that  the  legend  of  the  'poor  carpenter'  came 

into  being.  The  two  genealogies,  in  short,  are  so  strikingly  discordant  that  they  might  well 

be  referring  to  two  quite  different  individuals. 

The  discrepancies  between  the  Gospels  are  not  confined  to  the  question 

of 

Jesus's  ancestry  and  genealogy.  According  to  Luke,  Jesus,  on  his  birth,  was  visited  by 

shepherds.  According  to  Matthew,  he  was  visited  by  kings. 

According  to  Luke,  Jesus's  family  lived  in  Nazareth.  From  here  they  are  said  to  have 

journeyed  for  a  census  which  history  suggests  never  in  fact  occurred  to  Bethlehem,  where 

Jesus  was  born  in  the  poverty  of  a  manger. 

But  according  to  Matthew,  Jesus's  family  had  been  fairly  well-to-do 

residents  of  Bethlehem  all  along,  and  Jesus  himself  was  born  in  a 

house.  In 

Matthew's  version  Herod's  persecution  of  the  innocents  prompts  the 

family  to  flee  into  Egypt,  and  only  on  their  return  do  they  make  their 

home  in 

Nazareth. 

The  information  in  each  of  these  accounts  is  quite  specific  and 

assuming  the  census  did  occur  perfectly  plausible.  And  yet  the 

information  itself  simply  does  not  agree.  This  contradiction  cannot  be 

rationalised.  There  is  no  possible  means  whereby  the  two  conflicting 


327 


narratives  can  both  be  correct,  and  there  is  no  means  whereby  they  can 

be  reconciled.  Whether  one  cares  to  admit  it  or  not,  the  fact  must  be  recognised  that  one 

or  both  of  the  Gospels  is  wrong.  In  the  face  of  so  glaring  and  inevitable  a  conclusion,  the 

Gospels  cannot  be  regarded  as  unimpugnable.  How  can  they  be  unimpugnable  when 

they  impugn  each  other? 

The  more  one  studies  the  Gospels,  the  more  the  contradictions  between 

them  become  apparent.  Indeed  they  do  not  even  agree  on  the  day  of 

the 

Crucifixion.  According  to  John's  Gospel,  the  Crucifixion  occurred  on 

the  day  before  the  Passover.  According  to  the  Gospels  of  Mark,  Luke 

and 

Matthew,  it  occurred  on  the  day  after.  Nor  are  the  Gospels  in  accord 

on  the  personality  and  character  of  Jesus.  Each  depicts  a  figure  who. 

is  patently  at  odds  with  the  figure  depicted  in  the  others  a  meek 

lamblike  saviour  in 

Luke,  for  example,  a  powerful  and  majestic  sovereign  in  Matthew  who 

comes  "not  to  bring  peace  but  a  sword'.  And  there  is  further 

disagreement  about 

Jesus's  last  words  on  the  cross.  In  Matthew  and  Mark  these  words  are, 

"My 

God,  my  God,  why  hast  thou  forsaken  me?"  In  Luke  they  are,  "Father,  into  thy  hands  I 

commend  my  spirit."  And  in  John,  they  are  simply,  "It  is  finished." 

Given  these  discrepancies,  the  Gospels  can  only  be  accepted  as  a  highly 

questionable  authority,  and  certainly  not  as  definitive.  They  do  not 

represent  the  perfect  word  of  any  God;  or,  if  they  do,  God's  words  have 

been  very  liberally  censored,  edited,  revised,  glossed  and  rewritten  by 

human  hands.  The  Bible,  it  must  be  remembered  and  this  applies  to  both 

the  Old  and  New  Testaments  is  only  a  selection  of  works,  and,  in  many 

respects,  a  somewhat  arbitrary  one.  In  fact,  it  could  well  include  far 

more  books  and  writings  than  it  actually  does.  Nor  is  there  any 

question  of  the  missing  books  having  been  "lost'.  On  the  contrary  they 

were  deliberately  excluded.  In  A.D.  367  Bishop  Athanasius  of 

Alexandria  compiled  a  list  of  works  to  be  included  in  the  New 

Testament.  This  list  was  ratified  by  the 

Church  Council  of  Hippo  in  393  and  again  by  the  Council  of  Carthage  four  years  later.  At 

these  councils  a  selection  was  agreed  upon. 

Certain  works  were  assembled  to  form  the  New  Testament  as  we  know  it 

today,  and  others  were  cavalierly  ignored.  How  can  such  a  process  of 

selection  possibly  be  regarded  as  definitive?  How  could  a  conclave  of 


328 


clerics  infallibly  decide  that  certain  books  "belonged'  in  the  Bible 

while  others  did  not?  Especially  when  some  of  the  excluded  books  have  a  perfectly  valid 

claim  to  historical  veracity? 

As  it  exists  today,  moreover,  the  Bible  is  not  only  a  product  of  a  more 

or  less  arbitrary  selective  process.  It  has  also  been  subjected  to 

some  fairly  drastic  editing,  censorship  and  revision.  In  1958,  for 

example,  Professor 

Morton  Smith  of  Columbia  University  discovered,  in  a  monastery  near 

Jerusalem,  a  letter  which  contained  a  missing  fragment  of  the  Gospel 

of 

Mark.  The  missing  fragment  had  not  been  lost.  On  the  contrary,  it  had  apparently  been 

deliberately  suppressed  at  the  instigation,  if  not  the  express  behest,  of  Bishop  Clement  of 

Alexandria,  one  of  the  most  venerated  of  the  early  Church  fathers. 

Clement,  it  seems  had  received  a  letter  from  one  Theodore,  who 

complained  of  a  Gnostic  sect,  the  Carpocratians.  The  Carpocratians 

appear  to  have  been  interpreting  certain  passages  of  the  Gospel  of  Mark 

in  accordance  with  their  own  principles  principles  that  did  not  concur 

with  the  position  of 

Clement  and  Theodore.  In  consequence,  Theodore  apparently  attacked 

them  and  reported  his  action  to  Clement.  In  the  letter  found  by 

Professor  Smith, 

Clement  replies  to  his  disciple  as  follows: 

You  did  well  in  silencing  the  unspeakable  teachings  of  the  Carpocratians. 

For  these  are  the  "wandering  stars'  referred  to  in  the  prophecy,  who  wander  from  the 

narrow  road  of  the  commandments  into  a  boundless  abyss  of  the  carnal  and  bodily  sins. 

For,  priding  themselves  in  knowledge,  as  they  say,  "of  the  deep  [things]  of  Satan',  they  do 

not  know  that  they  are  casting  themselves  away  into  "the  nether  world  of  the  darkness'  of 

falsity,  and,  boasting  that  they  are  free,  they  have  become  slaves  of  servile  desires. 

Such  [men}  are  to  be  opposed  in  all  ways  and  altogether.  For,  even  if 

they  should  say  something  true,  one  who  loves  the  truth  should  not, 

even  so,  agree  with  them.  For  not  all  true  [things]  are  the  truth,  nor 

should  that  truth  which  [merely]  seems  true  according  to  human  opinions 


329 


be  preferred  to  the  true  truth,  that  according  to  the  faitlri  It  is  an 

extraordinary  statement  for  a  Church  father.  In  effect  Clement  is  saying  nothing  less  than, 

"If  your  opponent  happens  to  tell  the  truth,  you  must  deny  it  and  lie  in  order  to  refute  him." 

But  that  is  not  all.  In  the  following  passage,  Clement's  letter  goes  on  to  discuss  Mark's 

Gospel  and  its  "misuse',  in  his  eyes,  by  the  Carpocratians: 

lAs  for]  Mark,  then,  during  Peter's  stay  in  Rome  he  wrote  Ian  account  of]  the  Lord's 

doings;  not,  however,  declaring  all  [of  them],  nor  yet  hinting  at  the  secret  [ones],  but 

selecting  those  he  thought  most  useful  for  increasing  the  faith  of  those  who  were  being 

instructed.  But  when  Peter  died  as  a  martyr,  Mark  came  over  to  Alexandria,  bringing  both 

his  own  notes  and  those  of  Peter,  from  which  he  transferred  to  his  former  book  the  things 

suitable  to  whatever  makes  for  progress  towards  knowledge  [gnosis].  [Thus]  he 

composed  a  more  spiritual  Gospel  for  the  use  of  those  who  were  being  perfected. 

Nevertheless,  he  yet  did  not  divulge  the  things  not  to  be  uttered,  nor  did  he  write  down  the 

hierophantic  teaching  of  the  Lord,  but  to  the  stories  already  written  he  added  yet  others 

and,  moreover,  brought  in  certain  sayings  of  which  he  knew  the  interpretation  would,  as  a 

mystagogue,  lead  the  hearers  into  the  innermost  sanctuary  of  that  truth  hidden  by  seven 

[veils].  Thus,  in  sum,  he  prearranged  matters,  neither  grudgingly  nor  incautiously,  in  my 

opinion,  and,  dying,  he  left  his  composition  to  the  church  in  Alexandria,  where  it  even  yet 

is  most  carefully  guarded,  being  read  only  to  those  who  are  being  initiated  into  the  great 

mysteries. 

But  since  the  foul  demons  are  always  devising  destruction  for  the  race 

of  men,  Carpocrates,  instructed  by  them  and  using  deceitful  arts,  so 

enslaved  a  certain  presbyter  of  the  church  in  Alexandria  that  he  got 

from  him  a  copy  of  the  secret  Gospel,  which  he  both  interpreted 

according  to  his  blasphemous  and  carnal  doctrine  and,  moreover, 

polluted,  mixing  with  the  spotless  and  holy  words  utterly  shameless 

lies. 2 

Clement  thus  freely  acknowledges  that  there  is  an  authentic  secret 

Gospel  of 

Mark.  He  then  instructs  Theodore  to  deny  it: 


330 


To  them  [the  Carpocratians],  therefore,  as  I  said  above,  one  must 
never  give  way,  nor,  when  they  put  forward  their  falsifications,  should  one  concede  that 
the  secret  Gospel  is  by  Mark,  but  should  even  deny  it  on  oath. 
For  "not  all  true  [things]  are  to  be  said  to  all  men'. 3 

What  was  this  "secret  Gospel'  that  Clement  ordered  his  disciple  to  repudiate  and  that  the 
Carpocratians  were  'misinterpreting'?  Clement  answers  the  question  by  including  a  word- 
for-word  transcription  of  the  text  in  his  letter: 

To  you,  therefore,  I  shall  not  hesitate  to  answer  the  [questions]  you  have  asked,  refuting 
the  falsifications  by  the  very  words  of  the  Gospel.  For  example  after  "And  they  were  in  the 
road  going  up  to  Jerusalem,"  and  what  follows,  until  "After  three  days  he  shall  arise',  [the 
secret  Gospel]  brings  the  following  [material]  word  for  word: 
"And  they  come  into  Bethany,  and  a  certain  woman,  whose  brother  had 
died,  was  there.  And,  coming,  she  prostrated  herself  before  Jesus  and 
says  to  him,  "Son  of  David,  have  mercy  on  me".  But  the  disciples 
rebuked  her.  And 

Jesus,  being  angered,  went  off  with  her  into  the  garden  where  the  tomb 
was,  and  straightway  a  great  cry  was  heard  from  the  tomb.  And  going 
near, 

Jesus  rolled  away  the  stone  from  the  door  of  the  tomb.  And 
straightway,  going  in  where  the  youth  was,  he  stretched  forth  his  hand 
and  raised  him,  seizing  his  hand.  But  the  youth,  looking  upon  him, 
loved  him  and  began  to  beseech  him  that  he  might  be  with  him.  And 
going  out  of  the  tomb  they  came  into  the  house  of  the  youth,  for  he  was 
rich.  And  after  six  days,  Jesus  told  him  what  to  do  and  in  the 
eveining  the  youth  comes  to  him,  wearing  a  linen  cloth  over  [his]  naked 
[body].  And  he  remained  with  him  that  night,  for  Jesus  taught  him  the 
mystery  of  the  kingdom  of  God.  And  thence  arising,  he  returned  to  the 
other  side  of  the  Jordan.  1 4 

This  episode  appears  in  no  existing  version  of  the  Gospel  of  Mark.  In 
its  general  outlines,  however,  it  is  familiar  enough.  It  is,  of 
course,  the  raising  of  Lazarus,  described  in  the  Fourth  Gospel, 
ascribed  to  John.  In  the  version  quoted,  however,  there  are  some 


331 


significant  variations.  In  the  first  place  there  is  a  "great  cry' 

from  the  tomb  before 

Jesus  rolls  the  rock  aside  or  instructs  the  occupant  to  come  forth.  This  strongly  suggests 

that  the  occupant  was  not  dead  and  thereby,  at  a  single  stroke,  contravenes  any  element 

of  the  miraculous.  In  the  second  place  there  would  clearly  seem  to  be  something  more 

involved  than  accepted  accounts  of  the  Lazarus  episode  lead  one  to  believe.  Certainly 

the  passage  quoted  attests  to  some  special  relation  between  the  man  in  the  tomb  and  the 

man  who  "resurrects'  him.  A  modern  reader  might  perhaps  be  tempted  to  see  a  hint  of 

homosexuality.  It  is  possible  that  the  Carpocratians  -  a  sect  who  aspired  to 

transcendence  of  the  senses  by  means  of  satiation  of  the  senses  discerned  precisely  such 

a  hint.  But,  as  Professor  Smith  argues,  it  is  in  fact  much  more  likely  that  the  whole 

episode  refers  to  a  typical  mystery  school  initiation  a  ritualised  and  symbolic  death  and 

rebirth  of  the  sort  so  prevalent  in  the  Middle  East  at  the  time. 

In  any  case  the  point  is  that  the  episode,  and  the  passage  quoted  above,  do  not  appear  in 

any  modern  or  accepted  version  of  Mark. 

Indeed,  the  only  references  to  Lazarus  or  a  Lazarus  figure  in  the  New 

Testament  are  in  the 

Gospel  ascribed  to  John.  It  is  thus  clear  that  Clement's  advice  was  accepted  not  only  by 

Theodore,  but  by  subsequent  authorities  as  well. 

Quite  simply  the  entire  Lazarus  incident  was  completely  excised  from 

the 

Gospel  of  Mark. 

If  Mark's  Gospel  was  so  drastically  expurgated,  it  was  also  burdened 

with  spurious'  additions.  In  its  original  version  it  ends  with  the 

Crucifixion,  the  burial  and  the  empty  tomb.  There  is  no  Resurrection 

scene,  no  reunion  with  the  disciples.  Granted,  there  are  certain 

modern  Bibles  which  do  contain  a  more  conventional  ending  to  the  Gospel 

of  Mark  an  ending  which  does  include  the  Resurrection.  But  virtually 

all  modern  Biblical  scholars  concur  that  this  expanded  ending  is  a 

later  addition,  dating  from  the  late  second  century  and  appended  to  the 

original  document.5 

The  Gospel  of  Mark  thus  provides  two  instances  of  a  sacred  document  supposedly 

inspired  by  God  which  has  been  tampered  with,  edited,  censored,  revised  by  human 

hands.  Nor  are  these  two  cases  speculative.  On  the  contrary,  they  are  now  accepted  by 

scholars  as  demonstrable  and  proven. 


332 


Can  one  then  suppose  that  Mark's  Gospel  was  unique  in  being  subjected 

to  alteration?  Clearly  if  Mark's 

Gospel  was  so  readily  doctored,  it  is  reasonable  to  assume  that  the 

other 

Gospels  were  similarly  treated. 

For  the  purposes  of  our  investigation,  then,  we  could  not  accept  the 

Gospels  as  definitive  and  unimpugnable  authority,  but,  at  the  same  time 

we  could  not  discard  them.  They  were  certainly  not  wholly  fabricated, 

and  they  furnished  some  of  the  few  clues  available  to  what  really 

happened  in  the 

Holy  Land  two  thousand  years  ago.  We  therefore  undertook  to  look  more  closely,  to 

winnow  through  them,  to  disengage  fact  from  fable,  to  separate  the  truth  they  contained 

from  the  spurious  matrix  in  which  that  truth  was  often  embedded.  And  in  order  to  do  this 

effectively,  we  were  first  obliged  to  familia  rise  ourselves  with  the  historical  reality  and 

circumstances  of  the  Holy  Land  at  the  advent  of  the  Christian  era.  For  the  Gospels  are 

not  autonomous  entities,  conjured  out  of  the  void  and  floating,  eternal  and  universal,  over 

the  centuries.  They  are  historical  documents,  like  any  other  like  the  Dead  Sea  Scrolls,  the 

epics  of  Homer  and  Virgil,  the  Grail  romances.  They  are  products  of  a  very  specific  place, 

a  very  specific  time,  a  very  specific  people  and  very  specific  historical  factors. 

Palestine  at  the  Time  of  Jesus 

Palestine  in  the  first  century  was  a  very  troubled  corner  of  the  globe. 

For  some  time  the  Holy  Land  had  been  fraught  with  dynastic  squabbles, 

internecine  strife  and,  on  occasion,  full-scale  war.  During  the  second 

century  B.C.  a  more  or  less  unified  Judaic  kingdom  was  transiently 

established  as  chronicled  by  the  two  Apocryphal  Books  of  Maccabees.  By 

63 

B.C."  however,  the  land  was  in  upheaval  again,  and  ripe  for  conquest. 

More  than  half  a  century  before  Jesus's  birth,  Palestine  fell  to  the 

armies  of  Pompey,  and  Roman  rule  was  imposed.  But  Rome  at  the  time  was 

over-extended,  and  too  preoccupied  with  her  own  affairs,  to  install  the 

administrative  apparatus  necessary  for  direct  rule.  She  therefore 

created  a  line  of  puppet  kings  to  rule  under  her  aegis.  This  line  was 

that  of  the 


333 


Herodians  who  were  not  Jewish,  but  Arab.  The  first  of  the  line  was 
Antipater,  who  assumed  the  throne  of  Palestine  in  63  B.C.  On  his  death  in  37  B.C."  he 
was  succeeded  by  his  son,  Herod  the  Great,  who  ruled  until  4  B.C.  One  must  visualise, 
then,  a  situation  analogous  to  that  of  France  under  the  Vichy  government  between  1940 
and  1944.  One  must  visualise  a  conquered  land  and  a  conquered  people,  ruled  by  a 
puppet  regime  which  was  kept  in  power  by  military  force.  The  people  of  the  country  were 
allowed  to  retain  their  own  religion  and  customs. 


334 


But  the  final  authority  was  Rome.  This  authority  was  implemented  according  to  Roman 


335 


336 


In  A.D.  6  the  situation  became  more  critical.  In  this  year  the  country  was  split 

administratively  into  two  provinces,  Judaea  and  Galilee. 

Herod 

Antipas  became  king  of  the  latter.  But  Judaea  the  spiritual  and 

secular  capital  -was  rendered  subject  to  direct  Roman  rule, 

administered  by  a  Roman 

Procurator  based  at  Caesarea.  The  Roman  regime  was  brutal  and  autocratic. 

When  it  assumed  direct  control  of  Judaea  more  than  three  thousand  rebels  were 

summarily  crucified.  The  Temple  was  plundered  and  defiled. 

Heavy  taxation  was  imposed.  Torture  was  frequently  employed,  and  many 

of  the  populace  committed  suicide.  This  state  of  affairs  was  not 

improved  by 

Pontius  Pilate,  who  presided  as  procurator  of  Judaea  from  A.D.  26  to 

36.  In  contrast  to  the  Biblical  portraits  of  him,  existing  records 

indicate  that 

Pilate  was  a  cruel  and  corrupt  man,  who  not  only  perpetuated,  but  intensified,  the  abuses 

of  his  predecessor.  It  is  thus  all  the  more  surprising  at  least  on  first  glance  that  there 

should  be  no  criticism  of  Rome  in  the  Gospels,  no  mention  even  of  the  burden  of  the 

Roman  yoke. 

Indeed  the  Gospel  accounts  suggest  that  the  inhabitants  of  Judaea  were  placid  and 

contented  with  their  lot. 

In  point  of  fact  very  few  were  contented,  and  many  were  far  from  placid. 

The  Jews  in  the  Holy  Land  at  the  time  could  be  loosely  divided  into 

several  sects  and  sub  sects  There  were,  for  example,  the  Sadducees  a 

small  but  wealthy  land-owning  class  who,  to  the  anger  of  their 

compatriots,  collaborated,  Quisling-fashion,  with  the  Romans.  There 

were  the  Pharisees  -  a  progressive  group  who  introduced  much  reform 

into  Judaism  and  who,  despite  the  portrait  of  them  in  the  Gospels, 

placed 


337 


I 

Map  9  Palestine  at  the  Time  of  Jesus 
-  -'  GALILEE 

I  I 

-.-_-  SAM  ARIA-fil  -  _  ~  ill 
- .  "I 

r\_ 

_  Amanhra 

-err  aim  _  "JUDAEA  sr,ha.y  emnrnr-  _  i  -' 


.1 

Hrbn 

m  -J  ~l  _ 

■      3 

_li- 

-Urad  Sra 

III 
-IIII 

340  "I, 


338 


themselves  in  staunch,  albeit  largely  passive,  opposition  to  Rome. 

There  were  the  Essenes  an  austere,  mystically  oriented  sect,  whose 

teachings  were  much  more  prevalent  and  influential  than  is  generally 

acknowledged  or  supposed.  Among  the  smaller  sects  and  sub-sects  there 

were  many  whose  precise  character  has  long  been  lost  to  history,  and 

which,  therefore,  are  difficult  to  define.  It  is  worth  citing  the 

Nazorites,  however,  of  whom 

Samson,  centuries  before,  had  been  a  member,  and  who  were  still  in 

existence  during  Jesus's  time.  And  it  is  worth  citing  the  Nazoreans  or 

Nazarenes  a  term  which  seems  to  have  been  applied  to  Jesus  and  his 

followers.  Indeed  the  original  Greek  version  of  the  New  Testament 

refers  to  Jesus  as  "Jesus  the 

Nazarene'  which  is  mistranslated  in  English  as  "  esus  of  Nazareth'. 

"Nazarene',  in  short,  is  a  specifically  sectarian  word  and  has  no  connection  with  Nazareth. 

There  were  numerous  other  groups  and  sects  as  well,  one  of  which  proved 

of  particular  relevance  to  our  inquiry.  In  A.D.  6,  when  Rome  assumed 

direct  control  of  Judaea,  a  Pharisee  rabbi  known  as  Judas  of  Galilee 

had  created  a  highly  militant  revolutionary  group  composed,  it  would 

appear,  of  both 

Pharisees  and  Essenes.  This  following  became  known  as  Zealots.  The 

Zealots  were  not,  strictly  speaking,  a  sect.  They  were  a  movement, 

whose  membership  was  drawn  from  a  number  of  sects.  By  the  time  of 

Jesus's  mission,  the 

Zealots  had  assumed  an  increasingly  prominent  role  in  the  Holy  Land's 

affairs.  Their  activities  formed  perhaps  the  most  important  political 

backdrop  against  which  Jesus's  drama  enacted  itself.  Long  after  the 

Crucifixion,  Zealot  activity  continued  unabated.  By  A.D.  44  this  activity  had  so  intensified 

that  some  sort  of  armed  struggle  already  seemed  inevitable.  In  A.D.  66  the  struggle 

erupted,  the  whole  of  Judaea  rising  in  organised  revolt  against  Rome.  It  was  a  desperate, 

tenacious  but  ultimately  futile  conflict  reminiscent  in  certain  respects  of,  say,  Hungary  in 

1956. 

At  Caesarea  alone  20,000  Jews  were  massacred  by  the  Romans.  Within 

four  years  Roman  legions  had  occupied  Jerusalem,  razed  the  city,  and 

sacked  and  plundered  the  Temple.  Nevertheless  the  mountain  fortress  of 

Masada  held  out  for  yet  another  three  years,  commanded  by  a  lineal 

descendant  of  Judas  of 

Galilee. 


339 


The  aftermath  of  the  revolt  in  Judaea  witnessed  a  massive  exodus  of 

Jews  from  the  Holy  Land.  Nevertheless  enough  remained  to  foment 

another  rebellion  some  sixty  years  later  in  A.D.  132.  At  last,  in  135, 

the  Emperor  Hadrian  decreed  that  all  Jews  be  expelled  by  law  from 

Judaea,  and  Jerusalem  became  essentially  a  Roman  city.  It  was  renamed 

Aelia 

Capitolina. 

Jesus's  lifetime  spanned  roughly  the  first  thirty-five  years  of  a  turmoil  extending  over  140 

years.  The  turmoil  did  not  cease  with  his  death,  but  continued  for  another  century.  And  it 

engendered  the  psychological  and  cultural  adjuncts  inevitably  attending  any  such 

sustained  defiance  of  an  oppressor.  One  of  these  adjuncts  was  the  hope  and  longing  for 

a  Messiah  who  would  deliver  his  people  from  the  tyrant's  yoke.  It  was  only  by  virtue  of 

historical  and  semantic  accident  that  this  term  came  to  be  applied  specifically  and 

exclusively  to  Jesus. 

For  Jesus's  contemporaries,  no  Messiah  would  ever  have  been  regarded  as 

divine.  Indeed  the  very  idea  of  a  divine  Messiah  would  have  been 

preposterous  if  not  unthinkable.  The  Greek  word  for  Messiah  is 

"Christ'  or 

"Christos'.  The  term  whether  in  Hebrew  or  Greek  -meant  simply  "the 

anointed  one'  and  generally  referred  to  a  king.  Thus  David,  when  he 

was  anointed  king  in  the  Old  Testament,  became,  quite  explicitly,  a 

"Messiah'  or  a  "Christ'.  And  every  subsequent  Jewish  king  of  the  house 

of  David  was  known  by  the  same  appellation.  Even  during  the  Roman 

occupation  of  Judaea,  the  Roman-appointed  high  priest  was  known  as  the 

"Priest  Messiah'  or 

"Priest  Christ'." 

For  the  Zealots,  however,  and  for  other  opponents  of  Rome,  this  puppet  priest  was,  of 

necessity,  a  "false  Messiah'.  For  them  the  "true  Messiah'  implied  something  very  different 

the  legitimate  roi  perdu  or  "lost  king',  the  unknown  descendant  of  the  house  of  David  who 

would  deliver  his  people  from  Roman  tyranny.  During  Jesus's  lifetime  anticipation  of  the 

coming  of  such  a  Messiah  attained  a  pitch  verging  on  mass  hysteria.  And  this  anticipation 

continued  after  Jesus's  death. 

Indeed  the  revolt  of  A.D.  66  was  prompted  in  large  part  by  Zealot 

agitation  and  propaganda  on  behalf  of  a 

Messiah  whose  advent  was  said  to  be  imminent. 

The  term  "Messiah',  then,  implied  nothing  in  any  way  divine.  Strictly 


340 


defined,  it  meant  nothing  more  than  an  anointed  king;  and  in  the 

popular  mind  it  came  to  mean  an  anointed  king  who  would  also  be  a 

liberator.  In  other  words,  it  was  a  term  with  specifically  political 

connotations  something  quite  different  from  the  later  Christian  idea  of 

a  "Son  of  God'.  It  was  this  mundane  political  term  that  was  applied  to 

Jesus.  He  was  called  "Jesus  the  Messiah'  or  translated  into  Greek 

"Jesus  the  Christ'.  Only  later  was  this  designation  contracted  to 

"Jesus 

Christ'  and  a  purely  functional  title  distorted  into  a  proper  name. 

The  History  of  the  Gospels 

The  Gospels  issued  from  a  recognisable  and  concrete  historical  reality.  It  was  a  reality  of 

oppression,  of  civic  and  social  discontent,  of  political  unrest,  of  incessant  persecution  and 

intermittent  rebellion.  It  was  also  a  reality  suffused  with  perpetual  and  tantalising 

promises,  hopes  and  dreams  that  a  rightful  king  would  appear,  a  spiritual  and  secular 

leader  who  would  deliver  his  people  into  freedom.  So  far  as  political  freedom  was 

concerned,  such  aspirations  were  brutally  extinguished  by  the  devastating  war  between 

A.D.  66  and  74.  Transposed  into  a  wholly  religious  form,  however,  the  aspirations  were 

not  only  perpetuated  by  the  Gospels,  but  given  a  powerful  new  impetus. 

Modern  scholars  are  unanimous  in  concurring  that  the  Gospels  do  not  date  from  Jesus  ;s 

lifetime.  For  the  most  part  they  date  from  the  period  between  the  two  major  revolts  in 

Judaea  -  66  to  74  and  132  to  135  although  they  are  almost  certainly  based  on  earlier 

accounts.  These  earlier  accounts  may  have  included  written  documents  since  lost  for 

there  was  a  wholesale  destruction  of  records  in  the  wake  of  the  first  rebellion.  But  there 

would  certainly  have  been  oral  traditions  as  well.  Some  of  these  were  undoubtedly 

grossly  exaggerated  and/or  distorted,  received  and  transmitted  at  second,  third  or  fourth 

hand.  Others,  however,  may  have  derived  from  individuals  who  were  alive  in  Jesus's 

lifetime  and  may  even  have  known  him  personally. 

A  young  man  at  the  time  of  the  Crucifixion  might  well  have  been  alive  when  the  Gospels 

were  composed. 


341 


The  earliest  of  the  Gospels  is  generally  considered  to  be  Mark's, 

composed  sometime  during  the  revolt  of  66-74  or  shortly  thereafter 

except  for  its  treatment  of  the  Resurrection,  which  is  a  later  and 

spurious  addition.  Although  not  himself  one  of  Jesus's  original 

disciples, 

companion  of 

Saint  Paul,  and  his  Gospel  bears  an  unmistakable  stamp  of  Pauline  thought. 

But  if  Mark  was  a  native  of  Jerusalem,  his  Gospel  as  Clement  of 

Alexandria  states  was  composed  in  Rome,  and  addressed  to  a  Greco  Roman 

audience.  This,  in  itself,  explains  a  great  deal.  At  the  time  that 

Mark's  Gospel  was  composed,  Judaea  was,  or  had  recently  been,  in  open 

revolt,  and  thousands  of 

Jews  were  being  crucified  for  rebellion  against  the  Roman  regime.  If 

Mark  wished  his  Gospel  to  survive  and  impress  itself  on  a  Roman 

audience,  he  could  not  possibly  present  Jesus  as  anti-Roman.  Indeed, 

he  could  not  feasibly  present  Jesus  as  politically  oriented  at  all.  In 

order  to  ensure  the  survival  of  his  message,  he  would  have  been  obliged 

to  exonerate  the 

Romans  of  all  guilt  for  Jesus's  death  to  whitewash  the  existing  and  entrenched  regime  and 

blame  the  death  of  the  Messiah  on  certain  Jews. 

This  device  was  adopted  not  only  by  the  authors  of  the  other  Gospels, 

but  by  the  early  Christian  Church  as  well.  Without  such  a  device 

neither  Gospels  nor 

Church  would  have  survived. 

The  Gospel  of  Luke  is  dated  by  scholars  at  around  A.D.  80.  Luke  himself  appears  to  have 

been  a  Greek  doctor,  who  composed  his  work  for  a  high-ranking  Roman  official  at 

Caesarea,  the  Roman  capital  of  Palestine. 

For  Luke,  too,  therefore,  it  would  have  been  necessary  to  placate  and 

appease  the  Romans  and  transfer  the  blame  elsewhere.  By  the  time  the 

Gospel  of  Matthew  was  composed  approximately  A.D.  85  such  a 

transference  seems  to  have  been  accepted  as  an  established  fact  and 

gone  unquestioned.  More  than  half  of  Matthew's  Gospel,  in  fact,  is 

derived  directly  from  Mark's,  although  it  was  composed  originally  in 

Greek  and  reflects  specifically 

Greek  characteristics.  The  author  seems  to  have  been  a  Jew,  quite 

possibly  a  refugee  from  Palestine.  He  is  not  to  be  confused  with  the 

disciple  named 

Matthew,  who  would  have  lived  much  earlier  and  would  probably  have  known  only 

Aramaic. 

The  Gospels  of  Mark,  Luke  and  Matthew  are  known  collectively  as  the 

"Synoptic  Gospels',  implying  that  they  see  "eye  to  eye'  or  "with  one 


342 


eye'  which  of  course,  they  do  not.  Nevertheless  there  is  enough 

overlap  between  them  to  suggest  that  they  derived  from  a  single  common  source  -either 

an  oral  tradition  or  some  other  document  subsequently  lost.  This  distinguishes  them  from 

the  Gospel  of  John,  which  betrays  significantly  different  origins. 

Nothing  whatever  is  known  about  the  author  of  the  Fourth  Gospel. 

Indeed  there  is  no  reason  to  assume  his  name  was  John.  Except  for  John 

the 

Baptist,  the  name  John  is  mentioned  at  no  point  in  the  Gospel  itself,  and  its  attribution  to  a 

man  called  John  is  generally  accepted  as  later  tradition.  The  Fourth  Gospel  is  the  latest  of 

those  in  the  New  Testament  composed  around  A.D.  100  in  the  vicinity  of  the  Greek  city  of 

Ephesus.  It  displays  a  number  of  quite  distinctive  features.  There  is  no  nativity  scene,  for 

example,  no  description  whatever  of  Jesus's  birth,  and  the  opening  is  almost  Gnostic  in 

character.  The  text  is  of  a  decidedly  more  mystical  nature  than  the  other  Gospels,  and  the 

content  differs  as  well. 

The  other  Gospels,  for  instance,  concentrate  primarily  on  Jesus's 

activities  in  the  northern  province  of  Galilee  and  reflect  what  appears 

to  be  only  a  second-  or  third-hand  knowledge  of  events  to  the  south,  in 

Judaea  and  Jerusalem  including  the  Crucifixion.  The  Fourth  Gospel,  in 

contrast,  says  relatively  little  about  Galilee.  It  dwells  exhaustively 

on  the  events  in  Judaea  and  Jerusalem  which  concluded  Jesus's  career, 

and  its  account  of  the  Crucifixion  may  well  rest  ultimately  on  some 

first-hand  eye-witness  testimony.  It  also  contains  a  number  of 

episodes  and  incidents  which  do  not  figure  in  the  other  Gospels  at  all 

the  wedding  at  Cana,  the  roles  of 

Nicodemus  and  Joseph  of  Arimathea,  and  the  raising  of  Lazarus  (although 

the  last  was  once  included  in  Mark's  Gospel).  On  the  basis  of  such 

factors  modern  scholars  have  suggested  that  the  Gospel  of  John,  despite 

its  late  composition,  may  well  be  the  most  reliable  and  historically 

accurate  of  the  four.  More  than  the  other  Gospels,  it  seems  to  draw 

upon  traditions  current  among  contemporaries  of  Jesus,  as  well  as  other 

material  unavailable  to 

Mark,  Luke  and  Matthew.  One  modern  researcher  points  out  that  it 

reflects  an  apparently  first-hand  topographical  knowledge  of  Jerusalem 

prior  to  the  revolt  of  A.D.  66.  The  same  author  concludes,  "Behind  the 

Fourth  Gospel  lies  an  ancient  tradition  independent  of  the  other 

Gospels."  This  is  not  an  isolated  opinion.  In  fact,  it  is  the  most 


343 


prevalent  in  modern  Biblical  scholarship.  According  to  another 

writer,  "The  Gospel  of 

John,  though  not  adhering  to  the  Markian  chronological  framework  and 

being  much  later  in  date,  appears  to  know  a  tradition  concerning  Jesus 

that  must  be  primitive  and  authentic."e 

On  the  basis  of  our  own  research  we,  too,  concluded  that  the  Fourth  Gospel  was  the  most 

reliable  of  the  books  in  the  New  Testament  even  though  it,  like  the  others,  had  been 

subjected  to  doctoring,  editing,  expurgation  and  revision.  In  our  inquiry  we  had  occasion 

to  drew  upon  all  four  Gospels,  and  much  collateral  material  as  well.  But  it  was  in  the 

Fourth  Gospel  that  we  found  the  most  persuasive  evidence  for  our,  as  yet,  tentative 

hypothesis. 

The  Marital  Status  of  Jesus 

It  was  not  our  intention  to  discredit  the  Gospels.  We  sought  only  to  winnow  through  them 

to  locate  certain  fragments  of  possible  or  probable  truth  and  extract  them  from  the  matrix 

of  embroidery  surrounding  them.  We  were  seeking  fragments,  moreover,  of  a  very 

precise  character  fragments  that  might  attest  to  a  marriage  between  Jesus  and  the 

woman  known  as  the  Magdalene. 

Such  attestations,  needless  to  say,  would  not  be  explicit.  In  order  to  find  them,  we 

realised,  we  would  be  obliged  to  read  between  the  lines,  fill  in  certain  gaps,  account  for 

certain  caesuras  and  ellipses.  We  would  have  to  deal  with  omissions,  with  innuendoes, 

with  references  that  were,  at  best,  oblique.  And  we  would  not  only  have  to  look  for 

evidence  of  a  marriage.  We  would  also  have  to  look  for  evidence  of  circumstances  that 

might  have  been  conducive  to  a  marriage.  Our  inquiry  would  thus  have  to  encompass  a 

number  of  distinct  but  closely  related  questions.  We  began  with  the  most  obvious  of  them. 

1 )  Is  there  any  evidence  in  the  Gospels,  direct  or  indirect,  to  suggest  that  Jesus  was 

indeed  married? 

There  is,  of  course,  no  explicit  statement  to  the  effect  that  he  was. 

On  the  other  hand,  there  is  no  explicit  statement  to  the  effect  that  he 

was  not  and  iris  is  both  more  curious  and  more  significant  than  it 

might  first  appear.  As  Dr.  Geza  Vermes  of  Oxford  University  points 


344 


out,  "There  is  complete  silence  in  the  Gospels  concerning  the  marital 

status  of  Jesus  ..  .  Such  a  state  of  affairs  is  sufficiently  unusual  in 

ancient  Jewry  to  prompt  further  enquiry. "9 

The  Gospels  state  that  many  of  the  disciples  Peter,  for  example  were  married.  And  at  no 

point  does  Jesus  himself  advocate  celibacy.  On  the  contrary,  in  the  Gospel  of  Matthew  he 

declares,  "Have  ye  not  read,  that  he  which  made  them  at  the  beginning  made  them  male 

and  female  ..  .  For  this  cause  shall  a  man  leave  father  and  mother,  and  shall  cleave  to  his 

wife:  and  they  twain  shall  be  one  flesh?"  (19:4-5J  Such  a  statement  can  hardly  be 

reconciled  with  an  injunction  to  celibacy.  And  if  Jesus  did  not  preach  celibacy,  there  is  no 

reason  either  to  suppose  that  he  practised  it. 

According  to  Judaic  custom  at  the  time  it  was  not  only  usual,  but  almost  mandatory,  that  a 

man  be  married.  Except  among  certain  Essenes  in  certain  communities,  celibacy  was 

vigorously  condemned.  During  the  late  first  century,  one  Jewish  writer  even  compared 

deliberate  celibacy  with  murder,  and  he  does  not  seem  to  have  been  alone  in  this  attitude. 

And  it  was  as  obligatory  for  a  Jewish  father  to  find  a  wife  for  his  son  as  it  was  to  ensure 

that  his  son  be  circumcised. 

If  Jesus  were  not  married,  this  fact  would  have  been  glaringly  conspicuous. 

It  would  have  drawn  attention  to  itself,  and  been  used  to  characterise 

and  identify  him.  It  would  have  set  him  apart,  in  some  significant 

sense,  from  his  contemporaries.  If  this  were  the  case,  surely  one  at 

least  of  the 

Gospel  accounts  would  make  some  mention  of  so  marked  a  deviation  from  custom?  If 

Jesus  were  indeed  as  celibate  as  later  tradition  claims,  it  is  extraordinary  that  there  is  no 

reference  to  any  such  celibacy.  The  absence  of  any  such  reference  strongly  suggests 

that  Jesus,  as  far  as  the  question  of  celibacy  was  concerned,  conformed  to  the 

conventions  of  his  time  and  culture  -suggests,  in  short,  that  he  was  married.  This  alone 

would  satisfactorily  explain  the  silence  of  the  Gospels  on  the  matter.  The  argument  is 

summarised  by  a  respected  contemporary  theological  scholar: 

Granted  the  cultural  background  as  witnessed  ..  .  it  is  highly  improbable  that  Jesus  was 

not  married  well  before  the  beginning  of  his  public  ministry. 

If  he  had  insisted  upon  celibacy,  it  would  have  created  a  stir,  a 


345 


reaction  which  would  have  left  some  trace.  So,  the  lack  of  mention 

of 

Jesus's  marriage  in  the  Gospels  is  a  strong  argument  not  against  but  for  the  hypothesis  of 

marriage,  because  any  practice  or  advocacy  of  voluntary  celibacy  would  in  the  Jewish 

context  of  the  time  have  been  so  unusual  as  to  have  attracted  much  attention  and 

comment." 

The  hypothesis  of  marriage  becomes  all  the  more  tenable  by  virtue  of  the  title  of  "Rabbi', 

which  is  frequently  applied  to  Jesus  in  the  Gospels.  It  is  possible,  of  course,  that  this  term 

is  employed  in  its  very  broadest  sense,  meaning  simply  a  self-appointed  teacher. -But 

Jesus's  literacy  his  display  of  knowledge  to  the  elders  in  the  Temple,  for  example  strongly 

suggests  that  he  was  more  than  a  self-appointed  teacher.  It  suggests  that  he  underwent 

some  species  of  formal  rabbinical  training  and  was  officially  recognised  as  a  rabbi.  This 

would  conform  to  tradition,  which  depicts  Jesus  as  a  rabbi  in  the  strict  sense  of  the  word. 

But  if  Jesus  was  a  rabbi  in  the  strict  sense  of  the  word,  a  marriage  would  not  only  have 

been  likely,  but  virtually  certain.  The  Jewish  Mishnaic  Law  is  quite  explicit  on  the  subject: 

"An  unmarried  man  may  not  be  a  teacher."" 

In  the  Fourth  Gospel  there  is  an  episode  related  to  a  marriage  which 

may,  in  fact,  have  been  Jesus's  own.  This  episode  is,  of  course,  the 

wedding  at 

Cana  -  a  familiar  enough  story.  But  for  all  its  familiarity,  there  are  certain  salient  questions 

attending  it  which  warrant  consideration. 

From  the  account  in  the  Fourth  Gospel,  the  wedding  at  Cana  would  seem  to  be  a  modest 

local  ceremony  a  typical  village  wedding,  whose  bride  and  groom  remain  anonymous.  To 

this  wedding  Jesus  is  specifically  "called'  which  is  slightly  curious  perhaps,  for  he  has  not 

yet  really  embarked  on  his  ministry.  More  curious  still,  however,  is  the  fact  that  his  mother 

"just  happens',  as  it  were,  to  be  present.  And  her  presence  would  seem  to  be  taken  for 

granted.  It  is  certainly  not  in  any  way  explained. 

What  is  more,  it  is  Mary  who  not  merely  suggests  to  her  son,  but  in 

effect  orders  him,  to  replenish  the  wine.  She  behaves  quite  as  if  she 

were  the  hostess:  "And  when  they  wanted  wine,  the  mother  of  Jesus  with 

unto  him, 


346 


They  have  no  wine.  Jesus  saith  unto  her,  Woman,  what  have  I  to  do 

with  thee?  mine  hour  is  not  yet  come."  (John  2:3-4)  But 

Mary,  thoroughly  unperturbed,  ignores  her  son's  protest: 

"His  mother  saith  unto  the  servants,  "Whatsoever  he  saith  unto  you,  do  it."  (5)  And  the 

servants  promptly  comply  quite  as  if  they  were  accustomed  to  receiving  orders  from  both 

Mary  and  Jesus. 

Despite  Jesus's  ostensible  attempt  to  disown  her,  Mary  prevails;  and 

Jesus  thereupon  performs  his  first  major  miracle,  the  transmutation  of 

water  into  wine.  So  far  as  the  Gospels  are  concerned,  he  has  not 

hitherto  displayed  his  powers;  and  there  is  no  reason  for  Mary  to 

assume  he  even  possesses  them.  But  even  if  there  were,  why  should  such 

unique  and  holy  gifts  be  employed  for  so  banal  a  purpose?  Why  should 

Mary  make  such  a  request  of  her  son?  More  important  still,  why  should 

two  "guests'  at  a  wedding  take  on  themselves  the  responsibility  of 

catering  a  responsibility  that,  by  custom,  should  be  reserved  for  the 

host?  Unless,  of  course,  the  wedding  at 

Cana  is  Jesus's  own  wedding.  In  that  case,  it  would  indeed  be  his  responsibility  to 

replenish  the  wine. 

There  is  further  evidence  that  the  wedding  at  Cana  is  in  fact  Jesus's  own. 

Immediately  after  the  miracle  has  been  performed,  the  "governor  of  the  feast'  -  a  kind  of 

majordomo  or  master  of  ceremonies  tastes  the  newly  produced  wine,  "the  governor  of  the 

feast  called  the  bridegroom,  And  saith  unto  him,  Every  man  at  the  beginning  doth  set  forth 

good  wine;  and  when  men  have  well  drunk,  then  that  which  is  worse:  but  thou  hast  kept 

the  good  wine  until  now."  (John  2:9-10;  our  italics.)  These  words  would  clearly  seem  to  be 

addressed  to  Jesus.  According  to  the  Gospel,  however,  they  are  addressed  to  the 

'bridegroom'.  An  obvious  conclusion  is  that  Jesus  and  the  'bridegroom'  are  one  and  the 

same. 

The  Wife  of  Jesus 

2)     If  Jesus  was  married,  is  there  any  indication  in  the  Gospels  of  the 

identity  of  his  wife? 

On  first  consideration  there  would  appear  to  be  two  possible  candidates 


347 


two  women,  apart  from  his  mother,  who  are  mentioned  repeatedly  in  the 

Gospels  as  being  of  his  entourage.  The  first  of  these  is  the  Magdalene  or,  more  precisely, 

Mary  from  the  village  of  Migdal,  or  Magdala,  in  Galilee.  In  all  four  Gospels  this  woman's 

role  is  singularly  ambiguous  and  seems  to  have  been  deliberately  obscured.  In  the 

accounts  of  Mark  and  Matthew  she  is  not  mentioned  by  name  until  quite  late. 

When  she  does  appear  it  is  in  Judaea,  at  the  time  of  the  Crucifixion, 

and  she  is  numbered  among  Jesus's  followers.  In  the  Gospel  of  Luke, 

however,  she  appears  relatively  early  in  Jesus  's  ministry,  while  he  is 

still  preaching  in  Galilee.  It  would  thus  seem  that  she  accompanies 

him  from  Galilee  to 

Judaea  or,  if  not,  that  she  at  least  moves  between  the  two  provinces  as  readily  as  he 

does.  This  in  itself  strongly  suggests  that  she  was  married  to  someone.  In  the  Palestine 

of  Jesus's  time  it  would  have  been  unthinkable  for  an  unmarried  woman  to  travel 

unaccompanied  -and,  even  more  so,  to  travel  unaccompanied  with  a  religious  teacher  and 

his  entourage.  A  number  of  traditions  seem  to  have  taken  cognisance  of  this  potentially 

embarrassing  fact. 

Thus  it  is  sometimes  claimed  that  the  Magdalene  was  married  to  one  of 

Jesus's  disciples.  If  that  were  the  case,  however,  her  special  relationship  with  Jesus  and 

her  proximity  to  him  would  have  rendered  both  of  them  subject  to  suspicions,  if  not 

charges,  of  adultery. 

Popular  tradition  notwithstanding,  the  Magdalene  is  not,  at  any  point  in  any  of  the 

Gospels,  said  to  be  a  prostitute.  When  she  is  first  mentioned  in  the  Gospel  of  Luke,  she  is 

described  as  a  woman  "out  of  whom  went  seven  devils'.  It  is  generally  assumed  that  this 

phrase  refers  to  a  species  of  exorcism  on  Jesus's  part,  implying  the  Magdalene  was 

"possessed'.  But  the  phrase  may  equally  refer  to  some  sort  of  conversion  and/or  ritual 

initiation.  The  cult  of  Ishtar  or  Astarte  the  Mother  Goddess  and  "Queen  of  Heaven' 

involved,  for  example,  a  seven-stage  initiation.  Prior  to  her  affiliation  with  Jesus,  the 

Magdalene  may  well  have  been  associated  with  such  a  cult.  Migdal,  or  Magdala,  was  the 

"Village  of  Doves',  and  there  is  some  evidence  that  sacrificial  doves  were  in  fact  bred 

there.  And  the  dove  was  the  sacred  symbol  of  Astarte. 

One  chapter  before  he  speaks  of  the  Magdalene,  Luke  alludes  to  a  woman 

who  anointed  Jesus.  In  the  Gospel  of  Mark  there  is  a  similar 


348 


anointment  by  an  unnamed  woman.  Neither  Luke  nor  Mark  explicitly 

identify  this  woman  with  the 

Magdalene.  But  Luke  reports  that  she  was  a  "fallen  woman',  a  "sinner'. 

Subsequent  commentators  have  assumed  that  the  Magdalene,  since  she  apparently  had 

seven  devils  cast  out  of  her,  must  have  been  a  sinner.  On  this  basis  the  woman  who 

anoints  Jesus  and  the  Magdalene  came  to  be  regarded  as  the  same  person.  In  fact  they 

may  well  have  been.  If  the  Magdalene  were  associated  with  a  pagan  cult,  that  would 

certainly  have  rendered  her  a  "sinner'  in  the  eyes  not  only  of  Luke,  but  of  later  writers  as 

well. 

If  the  Magdalene  was  a  "sinner',  she  was  also,  quite  clearly,  something  more  than  the 

"common  prostitute'  of  popular  tradition.  Quite  clearly  she  was  a  woman  of  means.  Luke 

reports,  for  example,  that  her  friends  included  the  wife  of  a  high  dignitary  at  Herod's  court 

and  that  both  women,  together  with  various  others,  supported  Jesus  and  his  disciples  with 

their  financial  resources.  The  woman  who  anointed  Jesus  was  also  a  woman  of  means. 

In  Mark's  Gospel  great  stress  is  laid  upon  the  costliness  of  the  spikenard  ointment  with 

which  the  ritual  was  performed. 

The  whole  episode  of  Jesus's  anointing  would  seem  to  be  an  affair  of 

considerable  consequence.  Why  else  would  it  be  emphasised  by  the 

Gospels  to  the  extent  it  is?  Given  its  prominence,  it  appears  to  be 

something  more  than  an  impulsive  spontaneous  gesture.  It  appears  to  be 

a  carefully  premeditated  rite.  One  must  remember  that  anointing  was 

the  traditional  prerogative  of  kings  and  of  the  "rightful  Messiah', 

which  means  'the  anointed  one'.  From  this,  it  follows  that  Jesus 

becomes  an  authentic 

Messiah  by  virtue  of  his  anointing.  And  the  woman  who  consecrates  him  in  that  august 

role  can  hardly  be  unimportant. 

In  any  case  it  is  clear  that  the  Magdalene,  by  the  end  of  Jesus's 

ministry,  has  become  a  figure  of  immense  significance.  In  the  three 

Synoptic  Gospels  her  name  consistently  heads  the  lists  of  women  who 

followed  Jesus,  just  as 

Simon  Peter  heads  the  lists  of  male  disciples.  And,  of  co  use  she  was 

the  first  witness  to  the  empty  tomb  following  the  Crucifixion.  Among 

all  his  devotees,  it  was  to  the  Magdalene  that  Jesus  first  chose  to 

reveal  his 

Resurrection. 


349 


Throughout  the  Gospels  Jesus  treats  the  Magdalene  in  a  unique  and 

preferential  manner.  Such  treatment  may  well  have  induced  jealousy  in  other  disciples.  It 

would  seem  fairly  obvious  that  later  tradition  endeavoured  to  blacken  the  Magdalene's 

background,  if  not  her  name.  The  portrayal  of  her  as  a  harlot  may  well  have  been  the 

overcompensation  of  a  vindictive  following,  intent  on  impugning  the  reputation  of  a  woman 

whose  association  with  Jesus  was  closer  than  their  own  and  thus  inspired  an  all  too 

human  envy.  If  other  "Christians',  either  during  Jesus's  lifetime  or  afterwards,  grudged  the 

Magdalene  her  unique  bond  with  their  spiritual  leader,  there  might  well  have  been  an 

attempt  to  diminish  her  in  the  eyes  of  posterity.  There  is  no  question  that  she  was  so 

diminished.  Even  today  one  thinks  of  her  as  a  harlot,  and  during  the  Middle  Ages  houses 

for  reformed  prostitutes  were  called  Magdalenes.  But  the  Gospels  themselves  bear 

witness  that  the  woman  who  imparted  her  name  to  these  institutions  did  not  deserve  to  be 

so  stigmatised. 

Whatever  the  status  of  the  Magdalene  in  the  Gospels,  she  is  not  the 

only  possible  candidate  for  Jesus's  wife.  There  is  one  other,  who 

figures  most  prominently  in  the  Fourth  Gospel  and  who  may  be  identified 

as  Mary  of 

Bethany,  sister  of  Martha  and  Lazarus.  She  and  her  family  are  clearly  on  very  familiar 

terms  with  Jesus.  They  are  also  wealthy,  maintaining  a  house  in  a  fashionable  suburb  of 

Jerusalem  large  enough  to  accommodate  Jesus  and  his  entire  entourage.  What  is  more, 

the  Lazarus  episode  reveals  that  this  house  contains  a  private  tomb  a  somewhat 

flamboyant  luxury  in  Jesus's  time,  not  only  a  sign  of  wealth  but  also  a  status  symbol 

attesting  to  aristocratic  connections.  In  Biblical  Jerusalem,  as  in  any  modern  city,  land 

was  at  a  premium;  and  only  a  very  few  could  afford  the  self-indulgence  of  a  private  burial 

site. 

When,  in  the  Fourth  Gospel,  Lazarus  falls  ill,  Jesus  has  left  Bethany  for  a  few  days  and  is 

staying  with  his  disciples  on  the  Jordan. 

Hearing  of  what  has  happened,  he  nevertheless  delays  for  two  days  a 

rather  curious  reaction  and  then  returns  to  Bethany,  where  Lazarus  lies 

in  the  tomb.  As  he  approaches,  Martha  rushes  forth  to  meet  him  and 

cries,  "Lord,  if  thou  hadst  been  here,  my  brother  had  not  died."  (John 

1 1 :21 )  It  is  a  perplexing  assertion,  for  why  should  Jesus's  physical 


350 


presence  necessarily  have  prevented  the  man's  death?  But  the  incident 

is  significant  because  Martha,  when  she  greets  Jesus,  is  alone.  One 

would  expect  Mary,  her  sister,  to  be  with  her.  Mary,  however,  is 

sitting  in  the  house  and  does  not  emerge  until  Jesus  explicitly 

commands  her  to  do  so.  The  point  becomes  clearer  in  the  "secret' 

Gospel  of  Mark,  discovered  by  Professor  Morton  Smith  and  cited  earlier  in  this  chapter.  In 

the  suppressed  account  by  Mark,  it  would  appear  that  Mary  does  emerge  from  the  house 

before  Jesus  instructs  her  to  do  so.  And  she  is  promptly  and  angrily  rebuked  by  the 

disciples,  whom  Jesus  is  obliged  to  silence. 

It  would  be  plausible  enough  for  Mary  to  be  sitting  in  the  house  when 

Jesus  arrives  in  Bethany.  In  accordance  with  Jewish  custom,  she  would 

be  "sitting 

Shiveh'  sitting  in  mourning.  But  why  does  she  not  join  Martha  and  rush  to  meet  Jesus  on 

his  return?  There  is  one  obvious  explanation.  By  the  tenets  of  Judaic  law  at  the  time,  a 

woman  "sitting  Shiveh'  would  have  been  strictly  forbidden  to  emerge  from  the  house 

except  at  the  express  bidding  of  her  husband.  In  this  incident  the  behaviour  of  Jesus  and 

Mary  of  Bethany  conforms  precisely  to  the  traditional  comportment  of  a  Jewish  man  and 

wife. 

There  is  additional  evidence  for  a  possible  marriage  between  Jesus  and 

Mary  of  Bethany.  It  occurs,  more  or  less  as  a  non  sequitur,  in  the 

Gospel  of 

Luke: 

Now  it  came  to  pass,  as  they  went,  that  he  entered  into  a  certain  village:  and  a  certain 

woman  named  Martha  received  him  into  her  house. 

And  she  had  a  sister  called  Mary,  which  also  sat  at  Jesus'  feet,  and  heard  his  word. 

But  Martha  was  cumbered  about  much  serving,  and  came  to  him,  and 

said, 

Lord,  dost  thou  not  care  that  my  sister  hath  left  me  to  serve  alone?  bid  her  therefore  that 

she  help  me. 

And  Jesus  answered  and  said  unto  her,  Martha,  Martha,  thou  art  careful  and  troubled 

about  many  things: 

But  one  thing  is  needful:  and  Mary  hath  chosen  that  good  part,  which  shall  not  be  taken 

away  from  her.  (Luke  10:38-42) 

From  Martha's  appeal,  it  would  seem  apparent  that  Jesus  exercises  some 

sort  of  authority  over  Mary.  More  important  still,  however,  is  Jesus's 


351 


reply.  In  any  other  context  one  would  not  hesitate  to  interpret  this 

reply  as  an  allusion  to  a  marriage.  In  any  case  it  clearly  suggests  that  Mary  of  Bethany 

was  as  avid  a  disciple  as  the  Magdalene. 

There  is  substantial  reason  for  regarding  the  Magdalene  and  the  woman 

who  anoints  Jesus  as  one  and  the  same  person.  Could  this  person,  we 

wondered,  also  be  one  and  the  same  with  Mary  of  Bethany,  sister  of 

Lazarus  and 

Martha?  Could  these  women  who,  in  the  Gospels,  appear  in  three  different  contexts  in 

fact  be  a  single  person?  The  medieval  Church  certainly  regarded  them  as  such,  and  so 

did  popular  tradition.  Many  Biblical  scholars  today  concur.  There  is  abundant  evidence  to 

support  such  a  conclusion. 

The  Gospels  of  Matthew,  Mark  and  John,  for  example,  all  cite  the  Magdalene  as  being 

present  at  the  Crucifixion.  None  of  them  cites  Mary  of  Bethany. 

But  if  Mary  of  Bethany  was  as  devoted  a  disciple  as  she  appears  to  be, 

her  absence  would  seem  to  be,  at  the  least,  remiss.  Is  it  credible 

that  she  not  to  mention  her  brother,  Lazarus  -would  fail  to  witness  the 

climactic  moment  of  Jesus's  life?  Such  an  omission  would  be  both 

inexplicable  and  reprehensible  unless,  of  course,  she  was  present  and 

cited  by  the  Gospels  as  such  under  the  name  of  the  Magdalene.  If  the 

Magdalene  and  Mary  of 

Bethany  are  one  and  the  same,  there  is  no  question  of  the  latter  having  been  absent  from 

the  Crucifixion. 

The  Magdalene  can  be  identified  with  Mary  of  Bethany.  The  Magdalene  can  also  be 

identified  with  the  woman  who  anoints  Jesus.  The  Fourth  Gospel  identifies  the  woman 

who  anoints  Jesus  with  Mary  of  Bethany.  Indeed,  the  author  of  the  Fourth  Gospel  is  quite 

explicit  on  the  matter: 

Now  a  certain  man  was  sick,  named  Lazarus,  of 

Bethany,  the  town  of  Mary  and  her  sister  Martha.  (It  was  that  Mary  which  anointed  the 

Lord  with  ointment,  and  wiped  his  feet  with  her  hair,  whose  brother  Lazarus  was  sick.) 

(John  11:12) 

And  again,  one  chapter  later: 

Then  Jesus  six  days  before  the  passover  came  to 

Bethany,  where  Lazarus  was  which  had  been  dead,  whom  he  raised  from  the  dead. 


352 


There  they  made  him  a  supper;  and  Martha  served:  but  Lazarus  was  one 

of  them  that  sat  at  the  table  with  him. 

Then  took  Mary  a  pound  of  ointment  of  spikenard,  very  costly,  and  anointed  the  feet  of 

Jesus,  and  wiped  his  feet  with  her  hair:  and  the  house  was  filled  with  the  odour  of  the 

ointment.  (John  12:1-3) 

It  is  thus  clear  that  Mary  of  Bethany  and  the  woman  who  anoints  Jesus  are  the  same 

woman.  If  not  equally  clear,  it  is  certainly  probable  that  this  woman  is  also  the  Magdalene. 

If  Jesus  was  indeed  married,  there  would  thus  seem  to  be  only  one  candidate  for  his  wife 

one  woman  who  recurs  repeatedly  in  the  Gospels  under  different  names  and  in  different 

roles. 

The  Beloved  Disciple 

3)     If  the  Magdalene  and  Mary  of  Bethany  are  the  same  woman,  and  if  this  woman 
was  Jesus' s  wife,  Lazarus  would  have  been  Jesus' s  brother-in-law.   Is  there  any 

evidence  in  the  Gospels  to  suggest  that  Lazarus  did  indeed  enjoy  such  a  Status? 

Lazarus  does  not  figure  by  name  in  the  Gospels  of  Luke,  Matthew  and 

Mark  although  his  "resurrection  from  the  dead'  was  originally  contained 

in 

Mark's  account  and  then  excised.  As  a  result  Lazarus  is  known  to  posterity  only  through 

the  Fourth  Gospel  the  Gospel  of  John.  But  here  it  is  clear  that  he  does  enjoy  some 

species  of  preferential  treatment  which  is  not  confined  to  being  "raised  from  the  dead'.  In 

this  and  a  number  of  other  respects,  he  would  appear,  if  anything,  to  be  closer  to  Jesus 

than  the  disciples  themselves.  And  yet,  curiously  enough,  the  Gospels  do  not  even 

number  him  among  the  disciples. 

Unlike  the  disciples,  Lazarus  is  actually  menaced.  According  to  the 

Fourth 

Gospel,  the  chief  priests,  on  resolving  to  dispatch  Jesus,  decided  to 

kill 

Lazarus  as  well  (John  12:10).  Lazarus  would  seem  to  have  been  active 

in  some  way  on  Jesus's  behalf  which  is  more  than  can  be  said  of  some  of 

the  disciples.  In  theory  this  should  have  qualified  him  to  be  a 

disciple  himself  and  yet  he  is  still  not  cited  as  such.  Nor  is  he  said 


353 


to  have  been  present  at  the  Crucifixion  an  apparently  shameless 

display  of  ingratitude  in  a  man  who,  quite  literally,  owed  Jesus  his  life.  Granted,  he  might 

have  gone  into  hiding,  given  the  threat  directed  against  him.  But  it  is  extremely  curious 

that  there  is  no  further  reference  to  him  in  the  Gospels.  He  seems  to  have  vanished 

completely,  and  is  never  mentioned  again.  Or  is  he?  We  attempted  to  examine  the 

matter  more  closely. 

After  staying  in  Bethany  for  three  months,  Jesus  retires  with  his  disciples  to  the  banks  of 

the  Jordan,  not  much  more  than  a  day's  distance  away.  Here  a  messenger  hastens  to 

him  with  the  news  that  Lazarus  is  ill.  But  the  messenger  does  not  refer  to  Lazarus  by 

name.  On  the  contrary,  he  pro  trays  the  sick  man  as  someone  of  very  special  importance, 

"Lord,  behold,  he  whom  thou  lowest  is  sick."  (John  1 1 :3) 

Jesus's  reaction  to  this  news  is  distinctly  odd.  Instead  of  returning 

post-haste  to  the  succour  of  the  man  he  supposedly  loves,  he  blithely 

dismisses  the  matter:  "When  Jesus  heard  that,  he  said,  This  sickness  is 

not  unto  death,  but  for  the  glory  of  God,  that  the  Son  of  God  might  be 

glorified  thereby."  (1 1 :4)  And  if  his  words  are  perplexing,  his 

actions  are  even  more  so:  "When  he  heard  therefore  that  he  was  sick,  he 

abode  two  days  still  in  the  same  place  where  he  was."  (1 1 :6J  In  short 

Jesus  continues  to  dally  at  the  Jordan  for  another  two  days  despite  the 

alarming  news  he  has  received.  At  last  he  resolves  to  return  to 

Bethany.  And  then  he  flagrantly  contradicts  his  previous  statement  by 

telling  the  disciples  that  Lazarus  is  dead.  He  is  still  unperturbed 

however.  Indeed,  he  states  plainly  that  Lazarus's  "death'  had  served 

some  purpose  and  is  to  be  turned  to  account:  "Our  friend  Lazarus 

sleepeth;  but 

I  go,  that  I  may  awake  him  out  of  sleep."  (11:11)  And  four  verses 

later  he  virtually  admits  that  the  whole  affair  has  been  carefully 

stage-managed  and  arranged  in  advance:  "And  I  am  glad  for  your  sakes 

that  I  was  not  there,  to  the  intent  ye  may  believe;  nevertheless,  let 

us  go  unto  him."  (1 1 :15)  If  such  behaviour  is  bewildering,  the 

reaction  of  the  disciples  is  no  less  so:  "Then  said  Thomas,  which  is 

called  Didymus,  unto  his  fellow  disciples,  Let  us  also  go,  that  we  may 

die  with  him."  (11:16)  What  does  this  mean?  If 

Lazarus  is  literally  dead,  surely  the  disciples  have  no  intention  of 

joining  him  by  a  collective  suicide!  And  how  is  one  to  account  for 


354 


Jesus's  own  carelessness  the  blase  indifference  with  which  he  hears  of 

Lazarus's  illness  and  his  delay  in  returning  to  Bethany? 

The  explanations  of  the  matter  would  seem  to  lie,  as  Professor  Morton  Smith  suggests,  in 

a  more  or  less  standard  "mystery  school'  initiation. 

As 

Professor  Smith  demonstrates,  such  initiations  and  their  accompanying  rituals  were 

common  enough  in  the  Palestine  of  Jesus's  era.  They  often  entailed  a  symbolic  death 

and  rebirth,  which  were  called  by  those  names;  sequestration  in  a  tomb,  which  became  a 

womb  for  the  acolyte's  rebirth;  a  rite,  which  is  now  called  baptism  a  symbolic  immersion  in 

water;  and  a  cup  of  wine,  which  was  identified  with  the  blood  of  the  prophet  or  magician 

presiding  over  the  ceremony.  By  drinking  from  such  a  cup,  the  disciple  consummated  a 

symbolic  union  with  his  teacher,  the  former  becoming  mystically  "one'  with  the  latter. 

Significantly  enough,  it  is  precisely  in  these  terms  that  Saint  Paul  explains  the  purpose  of 

baptism.  And  Jesus  himself  uses  the  same  terms  at  the  Last  Supper. 

As  Professor  Smith  points  out,  Jesus's  career  is  very  similar  to  those  of  other  magicians, 

healers,  wonder  workers  and  miracle-workers  of  the  period.  1 2  Throughout  the  Four 

Gospels,  for  example,  he  consistently  meets  secretly  with  the  people  he  is  about  to  heal, 

or  speaks  quietly  with  them  alone. 

Afterwards  he  often  asks  them  not  to  divulge  what  transpired.  And  so  far  as  the  general 

public  is  concerned,  he  speaks  habitually  in  allegories  and  parables. 

It  would  seem,  then,  that  Lazarus,  during  Jesus's  sojourn  at  the  Jordan,  has  embarked  on 

a  typical  initiation  rite,  leading  as  such  rites  traditionally  did  to  a  symbolic  resurrection  and 

rebirth.  In  this  light  the  disciples'  desire  to  "die  with  him'  becomes  perfectly 

comprehensible  as  does  Jesus's  otherwise  inexplicable  complacency  about  the  whole 

affair. 

Granted,  Mary  and  Martha  would  appear  to  be  genuinely  distraught  as  would  a  number  of 

other  people.  But  they  may  simply  have  misunderstood  or  misconstrued  the  point  of  the 

exercise.  Or  perhaps  something  seemed  to  have  gone  wrong  with  the  initiation  a  not 

uncommon  occurrence.  Or  perhaps  the  whole  affair  was  a  skilfully  contrived  piece  of 

stagecraft,  whose  true  nature  and  purpose  were  known  only  to  a  very  few. 


355 


If  the  Lazarus  incident  does  reflect  a  ritual  initiation,  he  is 

clearly  receiving  very  preferential  treatment.  Among  other  things,  he  is  apparently  being 

initiated  before  any  of  the  disciples  who,  indeed,  seem  decidedly  envious  of  his  privilege. 

But  why  should  this  hitherto  unknown  man  of  Bethany  thus  be  singled  out?  Why  should 

he  undergo  an  experience  in  which  the  disciples  are  so  eager  to  join  him?  Why  should 

later,  mystically  oriented  "heretics  like  the  Carpocratians  have  made  so  much  of  the 

matter? 

And  why  should  the  entire  episode  have  been  expurgated  from  the  Gospel 

of 

Mark?  Perhaps  because  Lazarus  was  "he  whom  Jesus  loved'  more  than  the 

other  disciples.  Perhaps  because  Lazarus  had  some  special  connection 

with 

Jesus  -like  that  of  brother-in-law.  Perhaps  both.  It  is  possible  that  Jesus  came  to  know 

and  love  Lazarus  precisely  because  Lazarus  was  his  brother-in-law.  In  any  case  the  love 

is  repeatedly  stressed.  When  Jesus  returns  to  Bethany  and  weeps,  or  feigns  to  weep,  for 

Lazarus's  death,  the  bystanders  echo  the  words  of  the  messenger:  "Behold  how  he  loved 

him!"  (John  11:36) 

The  author  of  the  Gospel  of  John  the  Gospel  in  which  the  Lazarus  story  figures  does  not 

at  any  point  identify  himself  as  "John'.  In  fact  he  does  not  name  himself  at  all.  He  does, 

however,  refer  to  himself  by  a  most  distinctive  appellation.  He  constantly  calls  himself  "the 

beloved  disciple',  "the  one  whom  Jesus  loved',  and  clearly  implies  that  he  enjoys  a  unique 

and  preferred  status  over  his  comrades.  At  the  Last  Supper,  for  example,  he  flagrantly 

displays  his  personal  proximity  to  Jesus,  and  it  is  to  him  alone  that  Jesus  confides  the 

means  whereby  betrayal  will  occur: 

Now  there  was  leaning  on  Jesus'  bosom  one  of  his  disciples,  whom  Jesus  loved. 

Simon  Peter  therefore  beckoned  to  him,  that  he  should  ask  who  it  should  be  of  whom  he 

spoke. 

He  then  lying  on  Jesus'  breast  saith  unto  him,  Lord,  who  is  it? 

Jesus  answered,  He  it  is,  to  whom  I  shall  give  a  sop,  when  I  have  dipped  it.  And  when  he 

had  dipped  the  sop,  he  gave  it  to  Judas  Iscariot,  the  son  of  Simon.  (John  13:23-6) 

Who  is  this  "beloved  disciple',  on  whose  testimony  the  Fourth  Gospel  is 


356 


based?  All  the  evidence  suggests  that  he  is  in  fact  Lazarus  "he  whom 
Jesus  loved'.  It  would  seem,  then,  that 

Lazarus  and  the  "beloved  disciple'  are  one  and  the  same  person,  and 
that 

Lazarus  is  the  real  identity  of  "John'.  This  conclusion  would  seem  to 
be  almost  inevitable.  Nor  were  we  alone  in  reaching  it.  According  to 
Professor 

William  Brownlee,  a  leading  Biblical  scholar  and  one  of  the  foremost  experts  on  the  Dead 
Sea  Scrolls:  "From  internal  evidence  in  the  Fourth  Gospel  ..  .  the  conclusion  is  that  the 
beloved  disciple  is  Lazarus  of  Bethany." 

If  Lazarus  and  the  "beloved  disciple'  are  one  and  the  same,  it  would  explain  a  number  of 
anomalies.  It  would  explain  Lazarus's  mysterious  disappearance  from  the  Scriptural 
account,  and  his  apparent  absence  during  the  Crucifixion.  For  if  Lazarus  and  the  "beloved 
disciple'  were  one  and  the  same,  Lazarus  would  have  been  present  at  the  Crucifixion. 
And  it  would  have  been  to  Lazarus  that  Jesus  entrusted  the  care  of  his  mother.  The 
words  with  which  he  did  so  might  well  be  the  words  of  a  man  referring  to  his  brother-in- 
law: 

When  Jesus  therefore  saw  his  mother,  and  the  disciple  standing  by,  whom  he  loved,  he 
saith  unto  his  mother,  Woman,  behold  thy  son! 

Then  saith  he  to  the  disciple.  Behold  thy  mother!  And  from  that  hour  that  disciple  took  her 
unto  his  own  home.  (John  19:26-7) 

The  last  word  of  this  quotation  is  particularly  revelatory.  For  the 
other  disciples  have  left  their  homes  in  Galilee  and,  to  all  intents 
and  purposes,  are  homeless.  Lazarus,  however,  does  have  a  home  that 
crucial  house  in 

Bethany,  where  Jesus  himself  was  accustomed  to  stay. 
After  the  priests  are  said  to  have  decided  on  his  death,  Lazarus  is  not 
again  mentioned  by  name.  He  would  appear  to  vanish  completely.  But  if 
he  is  indeed  the  "beloved  disciple',  he  does  not  vanish  after  all,  and 
his  movements  and  activities  can  be  traced  to  the  very  end  of  the 
Fourth 

Gospel.  And  here,  too,  there  is  a  curious  episode  that  warrants  examination.  At  the  end 
of  the  Fourth  Gospel  Jesus  forecasts  Peter's  death  and  instructs  Peter  to  "follow'  him: 
Then  Peter,  turning  about,  see  th  the  disciple  whom  Jesus  loved 


357 


following;  which  also  leaned  on  his  breast  at  supper,  and  said,  Lord, 

which  is  he  that  betrayeth  thee?  Peter  seeing  him  saith  to  Jesus,  Lord,  and  what  shall  this 

man  do? 

Jesus  saith  unto  him,  If  I  will  that  he  tarry  till  I  come,  what  is  that  to  thee?  follow  thou  me. 

Then  went  this  saying  abroad  among  the  brethren,  that  that  disciple  should  not  die:  yet 

Jesus  said  not  unto  him,  He  shall  not  die,  but,  if  I  will  that  he  tarry  till  I  come,  what  is  that 

to  thee? 

This  is  the  disciple  which  testifieth  of  these  things,  and  wrote  these  things:  and  we  know 

that  his  testimony  is  true.  (John  21 :20-24) 

Despite  its  ambiguous  phraseology,  the  import  of  this  passage  would 

seem  to  be  clear.  The  "beloved  disciple'  has  been  explicitly 

instructed  to  wait  for 

Jesus's  return.  And  the  text  itself  is  quite  emphatic  in  stressing  that  this  return  is  not  to  be 

understood  symbolically  in  the  sense  of  a  "second  coming'.  On  the  contrary,  it  implies 

something  much  more  mundane.  It  implies  that  Jesus,  after  dispatching  his  other 

followers  out  into  the  world,  must  soon  return  with  some  special  commission  for  the 

"beloved  disciple'.  It  is  almost  as  if  they  have  specific,  concrete  arrangements  to  conclude 

and  plans  to  make. 

If  the  "beloved  disciple'  is  Lazarus,  such  collusion,  unknown  to  the 

other  disciples,  would  seem  to  have  a  certain  precedent.  In  the  week 

before  the 

Crucifixion,  Jesus  undertakes  to  make  his  triumphal  entry  into 

Jerusalem;  and  in  order  to  do  so  in  accordance  with  Old  Testament 

prophecies  of  a 

Messiah,  he  must  be  riding  astride  an  ass.  (Zechariah  9:9-10) 

Accordingly  an  ass  must  be  procured.  In  Luke's  Gospel  Jesus  dispatches 

two  disciples  to 

Bethany,  where,  he  tells  them,  they  will  find  an  ass  awaiting  them.  They  are  instructed  to 

tell  the  beast's  owner  that  the  "Master  has  need  of  it'. 

When  everything  transpires  precisely  as  Jesus  has  forecast,  it  is 

regarded  as  a  sort  of  miracle.  But  is  there  really  anything  very 

extraordinary  about  it?  Does  it  not  merely  attest  to  carefully  laid 

plans?  And  would  not  the  man  from  Bethany  who  provides  an  ass  at  the 

appointed  time  seem  to  be 

Lazarus? 

This,  certainly,  is  the  conclusion  of  Doctor  Hugh  Schonfield."4  He 


358 


argues  convincingly  that  the  arrange  menu  for  Jesus's  triumphal  entry 

into  Jerusalem  were  entrusted  to  Lazarus,  and  that  the  other  disciples 

had  no  knowledge  of  them.  If  this  was  indeed  the  case,  it  attests  to 

an  inner  circle  of  Jesus's  followers,  a  core  of  collaborators, 

co-conspirators  or  family  members  who,  alone,  are  admitted  into  their 

master's  confidence.  Doctor  Schonfield  believes  that  Lazarus  is  part 

of  just  such  a  circle.  And  his  belief  concurs  with  Professor  Smith's 

insistence  on  the  preferential  treatment  Lazarus  receives  by  virtue  of 

his  initiation,  or  symbolic  death,  at  Bethany.  It  is  possible  that 

Bethany  was  a  cult  centre,  a  place  reserved  for  the  unique  rituals  over 

which  Jesus  presided.  If  so,  this  might  explain  the  otherwise 

enigmatic  occurrence  of 

Bethany  elsewhere  in  our  investigation.  The  Prieure  de  Sion  had  called 

its  "arch'  at  Rennes-leChateau  "Bethanie'.  And  Sauniere,  apparently  at 

the 

Prieure  de  Sion's  request,  had  christened  his  villa  Villa  Bethania. 

In  any  case,  the  collusion  which  seems  to  elicit  an  ass  from  the  "man 

from 

Bethany'  may  well  be  displaying  itself  again  at  the  mysterious  end  of 

the 

Fourth  Gospel  when  Jesus  orders  the  "beloved  disciple'  to  tarry  until  he  returns.  It  would 

seem  that  he  and  the  "beloved  disciple'  have  plans  to  make.  And  it  is  not  unreasonable  to 

assume  that  these  plans  included  the  care  of  Jesus's  family,  At  the  Crucifixion  he  had 

already  entrusted  his  mother  to  the  "beloved  disciple's'  custody.  If  he  had  a  wife  and 

children,  they,  presumably,  would  have  been  entrusted  to  the  "beloved  disciple'  as  well. 

This,  of  course,  would  be  all  the  more  plausible  if  the  'beloved  disciple'  were  indeed  his 

brother-in-law. 

According  to  much  later  tradition,  Jesus's  mother  eventually  died  in 

exile  at  Ephesus  from  whence  the  Fourth  Gospel  is  said  to  have 

subsequently  issued.  There  is  no  indication,  however,  that  the 

"beloved  disciple'  attended  Jesus's  mother  for  the  duration  of  her 

life.  According  to  Doctor 

Schonfield,  the  Fourth  Gospel  was  probably  not  composed  at  Ephesus,  only  reworked, 

revised  and  edited  by  a  Greek  elder  there  who  made  it  conform  to  his  own  ideas." 

If  the  "beloved  disciple'  did  not  go  to  Ephesus,  what  became  of  him? 

If  he  and  Lazarus  were  one  and  the  same  that  question  can  be  answered, 


359 


for  tradition  is  quite  explicit  about  what  became  of  Lazarus. 

According  to  tradition,  as  well  as  certain  early  Church  writers, 

Lazarus,  the  Magdalene, 

Martha,  Joseph  of  Arimathea  and  a  few  others,  were  transported  by  ship 

to 

Marseilles. "6  Here  Joseph  was  supposedly  consecrated  by  Saint  Philip  and  sent  on  to 

England,  where  he  established  a  church  at  Glastonbury.  Lazarus  and  the  Magdalene, 

however,  are  said  to  have  remained  in  Gaul. 

Tradition  maintains  that  the  Magdalene  died  at  either  Aix-en-Provence 

or  Saint  Baume,  and  Lazarus  at  Marseilles  after  founding  the  first 

bishopric  there.  One  of  their  companions,  Saint  Maximin,  is  said  to 

have  founded  the  first  bishopric  of  Narbonne.* 

If  Lazarus  and  the  "beloved  disciple'  were  one  and  the  same,  there  would  thus  be  an 

explanation  for  their  joint  disappearance.  Lazarus,  the  true  "beloved  disciple',  would  seem 

to  have  been  set  ashore  at  Marseilles,  together  with  his  sister  who,  as  tradition 

subsequently  maintains,  was  carrying  with  her  the  Holy  Grail,  the  "blood  royal'.  And  the 

arrangements  for  this  escape  and  exile  would  seem  to  have  been  made  by  Jesus  himself, 

together  with  the  "beloved  disciple',  at  the  end  of  the  Fourth  Gospel. 

The  Dynasty  of  Jesus 

4)     If  Jesus  was  indeed  married  to  the  Magdalene,  might  such  a  marriage  have 
served  some  specific  purpose?   In  other  words,  might  it  have  been  something  more 
than  a  conventional  marriage?   Might  it  have  been  a  dynastic  alliance  of  some 
kind,  with  political  implications  and  repercussions?   Might  a  bloodline 

resulting  from  such  a  marriage,    in  short,  have  fully  warranted  the  appellation  "blood 
royal'? 

The  Gospel  of  Matthew  states  explicitly  that  Jesus  was  of  royal  blood  a 
genuine  king,  the  lineal  descendant  of  Solomon  and  David.  If  this  is 
true,  he  would  have  enjoyed  a  legitimate  claim  to  the  throne  of  a 
united 

Palestine  and  perhaps  even  the  legitimate  claim.  And  the  inscription 
affixed  to  the  cross  would  have  been  much  more  than  mere  sadistic 
derision,  for  Jesus  would  indeed  have  been  "King  of  the  Jews'.  His 
position,  in  many  respects,  would  have  been  analogous  to  that  of,  say, 
Bonnie  Prince  Charlie  in  1745.  And  thus  he  would  have  engendered  the 


360 


opposition  he  did  precisely  by  virtue  of  his  role  the  role  of  a  priest 

king  who  might  possibly  unify  his  country  and  the  Jewish  people,  thereby  posing  <i  serious 

threat  to  both  Herod  and  Rome. 

Certain  modern  Biblical  scholars  have  argued  that  Herod's  famous  "Massacre  of  the 

Innocents'  never  in  fact  took  place.  Even  if  it  did,  it  was  probably  not  of  the  garish  and 

appalling  proportions  ascribed  to  it  by  the  Gospels  and  subsequent  tradition.  And  yet  the 

very  perpetuation  of  the  story  would  seem  to  attest  to  something  some  genuine  alarm  on 

Herod's  part,  some  very  real  anxiety  about  being  deposed.  Granted,  Herod  was  an 

extremely  insecure  ruler,  hated  by  his  enslaved  subjects  and  sustained  in  power  only  by 

Roman  cohorts.  But  however  precarious  his  position  might  have  been,  it  cannot, 

realistically  speaking,  have  been  seriously  threatened  by  rumours  of  a  mystical  or  spiritual 

saviour  of  the  kind  with  which  the  Holy  Land  at  the  time  already  abounded  anyway.  If 

Herod  was  indeed  worried,  it  can  only  have  been  by  a  very  real,  concrete,  political  threat 

the  threat  posed  by  a  man  who  possessed  a  more  legitimate  claim  to  the  throne  than  his 

own,  and  who  could  muster  substantial  popular  support.  The  "Massacre  of  the  Innocents' 

may  never  have  occurred,  but  the  traditions  relating  to  it  reflect  some  concern  on  Herod's 

part  about  a  rival  claim  and,  quite  possibly,  some  action  intended  to  forestall  or  preclude  it. 

Such  a  claim  can  only  have  been  political  in  nature.  And  it  must  have  warranted  being 

taken  seriously. 

To  suggest  that  Jesus  enjoyed  such  a  claim  is,  of  course,  to  challenge 

the  popular  image  of  the  "poor  carpenter  from  Nazareth'.  But  there  are 

persuasive  reasons  for  doing  so.  In  the  first  place  it  is  not 

altogether  certain  that  Jesus  was  from  Nazareth.  "Jesus  of  Nazareth' 

is  in  fact  a  corruption,  or  mis  translation  of  "Jesus  the  Nazorite'  or 

"Jesus  the 

Nazorean'  or  perhaps  "Jesus  of  Gennesareth'.  In  the  second  place  there 

is  considerable  doubt  as  to  whether  the  town  of  Nazareth  actually 

existed  in 

Jesus's  time.  It  does  not  occur  in  any  Roman  maps,  documents  or 

records.  It  is  not  mentioned  in  the  Talmud.  It  is  not  mentioned, 

still  less  associated  with  Jesus,  in  any  of  the  writings  of  Saint  Paul 

-which  were,  after  all,  composed  before  the  Gospels.   And  Flavius  JosephllS  the 

foremost  chronicler  of  the  period,  who  commanded  troops  in 


361 


Galilee  and  listed  the  province's  towns  makes  no  mention  of  Nazareth 

either.  It  would  seem,  in  short,  that  Nazareth  did  not  appear  as  a  town  until  sometime 

after  the  revolt  of  nD.  68-74,  and  that  Jesus's  name  became  associated  with  it  by  virtue  of 

the  semantic  confusion  accidental  or  deliberate  which  characterises  so  much  of  the  New 

Testament. 

Whether  Jesus  was  "of  Nazareth'  or  not  there  is  no  indication  that  he  was  ever  a  "poor 

carpenter'.  17  Certainly  none  of  the  Gospels  portrays  him  as  such.  Indeed  their  evidence 

suggests  quite  the  contrary.  He  seems  to  be  well  educated  for  example.  He  seems  to 

have  undergone  training  for  the  rabbinate,  and  to  have  consorted  as  frequently  with 

wealthy  and  influential  people  as  with  the  poor  Joseph  of  Arimathea,  for  instance,  and 

Nicodemus. 

And  the  wedding  at  Cana  would  seem  to  bear  further  witness  to  Jesus's  status  and  social 

position. 

This  wedding  does  not  appear  to  have  been  a  modest,  humble  festival  conducted  by  the 

"common  people'.  On  the  contrary  it  bears  all  the  marks  of  an  extravagant  aristocratic 

union,  a  "high  society'  affair,  attended  by  at  least  several  hundred  guests.  There  are 

abundant  servants,  for  example  who  hasten  to  do  both  Mary's  and  Jesus's  bidding.  There 

is  a  "master  of  the  feast'  or  "master  of  ceremonies'  who,  in  the  context,  would  have  been  a 

kind  of  chief  butler  or  perhaps  even  an  aristocrat  himself.  Most  clearly  there  is  a  positively 

enormous  quantity  of  wine.  When  Jesus  "transmutes'  the  water  into  wine,  he  produces, 

according  to  the  "Good  News  Bible',  no  less  than  six  hundred  lit  res  which  is  more  than 

eight  hundred  bottles!  And  this  is  in  addition  to  what  has  already  been  consumed. 

All  things  considered,  the  wedding  at  Cana  would  seem  to  have  been  a  sumptuous 

ceremony  of  the  gentry  or  aristocracy.  Even  if  the  wedding  were  not  Jesus's  own,  his 

presence  at  it,  and  his  mother's,  would  suggest  that  they  were  members  of  the  same 

caste.  This  alone  would  explain  the  servants'  obedience  to  them. 

If  Jesus  was  an  aristocrat,  and  if  he  was  married  to  the  Magdalene,  it  is  probable  that  she 

was  of  comparable  social  station.  And  indeed,  she  would  appear  to  be  so.  As  we  have 

seen  she  numbered  among  her  friends  the  wife  of  an  important  official  at  Herod's  court. 

But  she  may  have  been  more  important  still. 


362 


As  we  had  discovered  by  tracing  references  in  the  "Prieure  documents', 

Jerusalem  the  Holy  City  and  capital  of  Judaea  had  originally  been  the 

property  of  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin.  Subsequently  the 

Benjamites  were  decimated  in  their  war  with  the  other  tribes  of  Israel, 

and  many  of  them  went  into  exile  although,  as  the  "Prieure  documents' 

maintain,  "certain  of  them  remained'.  One  descendant  of  this  remnant 

was 

Saint  Paul,  who  states  explicitly  that  he  is  a  Beni  amite.  (Romans  11:1) 

Despite  their  conflict  with  the  other  tribes  of  Israel,  the  Tribe  of 

Benjamin  appears  to  have  enjoyed  some  special  status.  Among  other 

things,  it  provided  Israel  with  her  first  king  Saul,  anointed  by  the 

prophet 

Samuel  and  with  her  first  royal  house.  But  Saul  was  eventually  deposed 

by 

David,  of  the  Tribe  of  Judah.  And  David  not  only  deprived  the  Benjamites  of  their  claim  to 

the  throne.  By  establishing  his  capital  at  Jerusalem  he  deprived  them  of  their  rightful 

inheritance  as  well. 

According  to  all  New  Testament  accounts,  Jesus  was  of  the  line  of  David  and  thus  also  a 

member  of  the  Tribe  of  Judah.  In  Benjamite  eyes  this  might  have  rendered  him,  at  least  in 

some  sense,  a  usurper.  Any  such  objection  might  have  been  surmounted,  however,  if  he 

were  married  to  a  Benjamite  woman. 

Such  a  marriage  would  have  constituted  an  important  dynastic  alliance, 

and  one  filled  with  political  consequence.  If  would  not  only  have 

provided 

Israel  with  a  powerful  priest-king.  It  would  also  have  performed  the  symbolic  function  of 

returning  Jerusalem  to  its  original  and  rightful  owners.  Thus  it  would  have  served  to 

encourage  popular  unity  and  support,  and  consolidated  whatever  claim  to  the  throne 

Jesus  might  have  possessed. 

In  the  New  Testament  there  is  no  indication  of  the  Magdalene's  tribal  affiliation.  In 

subsequent  legends,  however,  she  is  said  to  have  been  of :  oyal  lineage.  And  there  are 

other  traditions  which  state  specifically  that  she  was  of  the  Tribe  of  Benjamin. 

At  this  point,  the  outlines  of  a  coherent  historical  scenario  began  to  be  discernible.  And, 

as  far  as  we  could  see,  it  made  sound  political  sense. 

Jesus  would  have  been  a  priest-king  of  the  line  of  David,  who  possessed 

a  legitimate  claim  to  the  throne.  He  would  have  consolidated  his 

position  by  a  symbolically  important  dynastic  marriage.  He  would  then 

have  been  poised  to  unify  his  country,  mobilise  the  populace  behind 


363 


him,  drive  out  the  oppressors,  depose  their  abject  puppet  and  restore 

the  glory  of  the  monarchy  as  it  was  under  Solomon.  Such  a  man  would 

indeed  have  been  "King  of  the 

Jews'. 

The  Crucifixion 

5)     As  Gandhi's  accomplishments  bear  witness,  a  spiritual  leader,  given 

sufficient  popular  support,  can  pose  a  threat  to  an  existing  regime. 

But  a  married  man,  with  a  rightful  claim  to  the  throne  and  children 

through  whom  to  establish  a  dynasty,  is  a  threat  of  a  decidedly  more 

serious  nature.  Is  there  any  evidence  in  the  Gospels  that  Jesus  was  in 

fact  regarded  by  the 

Romans  as  such  a  threat? 

During  his  interview  with  Pilate,  Jesus  is  repeatedly  called  "King  of 

the 

Jews'.  In  accordance  with  Pilate's  instructions,  an  inscription  of 

this  title  is  also  affixed  to  the  cross.  As  Professor  S.  G.  F.  Brandon 

of 

Manchester  University  argues,  the  inscription  affixed  to  the  cross  must  be  regarded  as 

genuine  as  much  so  as  anything  in  the  New  Testament.  In  the  first  place  it  figures,  with 

virtually  no  variation,  in  all  four  Gospels. 

In  the  second  place  it  is  too  compromising,  too  embarrassing  an  episode  for  subsequent 

editors  to  have  invented  it. 

In  the  Gospel  of  Mark,  Pilate,  after  interrogating  Jesus,  asks  the  assembled  dignitaries, 

"What  will  ye  then  that  I  shall  do  unto  him  whom  ye  call  the  King  of  the  Jews?"  (Mark 

15:12)  This  would  seem  to  indicate  that  at  least  some  Jews  do  actually  refer  to  Jesus  as 

their  king.  At  the  same  time,  however,  in  all  four  Gospels  Pilate  also  accords  Jesus  that 

title. 

There  is  no  reason  to  suppose  that  he  does  so  ironically  or  derisively.  In  the  Fourth 

Gospel  he  insists  on  it  quite  adamantly  and  seriously,  despite  a  chorus  of  protests.  In  the 

three  Synoptic  Gospels,  moreover,  Jesus  himself  acknowledged  his  claim  to  the  title:  "And 

Pilate  asked  him.  Art  thou  the  King  of  the  Jews?  And  he  answering  said  unto  him,  Thou 

say  est  it."  (Mark  15:2)  In  the  English  translation  this  reply  may  sound  ambivalent  - 

perhaps  deliberately  so.  In  the  original  Greek,  however,  its  import  is  quite  unequivocal.  It 

can  only  be  interpreted  as  "Thou  hast  spoken  correctly'.  And  thus  the  phrase  is 

interpreted  whenever  it  appears  elsewhere  in  the  Bible. 


364 


The  Gospels  were  composed  during  and  after  the  revolt  of  A.D.  68-74, 

when  Judaism  had  effectively  ceased  to  exist  as  an  organised  social, 

political  and  military  force.  What  is  more,  the  Gospels  were  composed 

for  a  Greco-Roman  audience  for  whom  they  had,  of  necessity,  to  be  made 

acceptable.  Rome  had  just  fought  a  bitter  and  costly  war  against  the 

Jews.  In  consequence  it  was  perfectly  natural  to  cast  the  Jews  in  the 

role  of  villains.  In  the  wake  of  the  Judaean  revolt,  moreover,  Jesus 

could  not  possibly  be  portrayed  as  a  political  figure  a  figure  in  any 

way  linked  to  the  agitation  which  culminated  in  the  war.  Finally  the 

role  of  the  Romans  in 

Jesus's  trial  and  execution  had  to  be  whitewashed  and  presented  as 

sympathetically  as  possible.  Thus  Pilate  is  depicted  in  the  Gospels  as 

a  decent,  responsible  and  tolerant  man,  who  consents  only  reluctantly 

to  the 

Crucifixion."  But  despise  these  liberties  taken  with  history,  Rome's  true  position  in  the 

affair  can  be  discerned. 

According  to  the  Gospels,  Jesus  is  initially  condemned  by  the  Sanhedrin 

the  Council  of  Jewish  Elders  who  then  bring  him  to  Pilate  and  beseech 

the 

Procurator  to  pronounce  against  him.  Historically  this  makes  no  sense 

at  all.  In  the  three  Synoptic  Gospels  Jesus  is  arrested  and  condemned 

by  the 

Sanhedrin  on  the  night  of  the  Passover.  But  by  Judaic  law  the 

Sanhedrin  was  forbidden  to  meet  over  the  Passover. "9  In  the  Gospels 

Jesus's  arrest  and  trial  occur  at  night,  before  the  Sanhedrin.  By 

Judaic  law  the  Sanhedrin  was  forbidden  to  meet  at  night,  in  private 

houses,  or  anywhere  outside  the  precincts  of  the  Temple.  In  the 

Gospels  the  Sanhedrin  is  apparently  un  authorised  to  pass  a  death 

sentence  and  this  would  ostensibly  be  the  reason  for  bringing  Jesus  to 

Pilate.  However,  the  Sanhedrin  was  authorised  to  pass  death  sentences 

by  stoning,  if  not  by  crucifixion.  If  the 

Sanhedrin  had  wished  to  dispose  of  Jesus,  therefore,  it  could  have  sentenced  him  to 

death  by  stoning  on  its  own  authority.  There  would  have  been  no  need  to  bother  Pilate  at 

all. 

There  are  numerous  other  attempts  by  the  authors  of  the  Gospels  to  transfer  guilt  and 

responsibility  from  Rome.  One  such  is  Pilate's  apparent  offer  of  a  dispensation  his 

readiness  to  free  a  prisoner  of  the  crowd's  choosing. 

According  to  the  Gospels  of  Mark  and  Matthew,  this  was  a  "custom  of 

the 

Passover  festival'.  In  fact  it  was  no  such  thing. z  Modern  authorities 


365 


agree  that  no  such  policy  ever  existed  on  the  part  of  the  Romans,  and 

that  the  offer  to  liberate  either 

Jesus  or  Barabbas  is  sheer  fiction.  Pilate's  reluctance  to  condemn 

Jesus,  and  his  grudging  submission  to  the  bullying  pressure  of  the  mob, 

would  seem  to  be  equally  fictitious.  In  reality  it  would  have  been 

unthinkable  for  a 

Roman  Procurator  and  especially  a  Procurator  as  ruthless  as  Pilate  to  bow  to  the  pressure 

of  a  mob.  Again,  the  purpose  of  such  fictionalisation  is  clear  enough  to  exonerate  the 

Romans,  to  transfer  blame  to  the  Jews  and  thereby  to  make  Jesus  acceptable  to  a  Roman 

audience. 

It  is  possible,  of  course,  that  not  all  Jews  were  entirely  innocent. 

Even  if  the  Roman  administration  feared  a  priest-king  with  a  claim  to 

the  throne,  it  could  not  embark  overtly  on  acts  of  provocation  acts 

that  might  precipitate  a  full-scale  rebellion.  Certainly  it  would  have 

been  more  expedient  for  Rome  if  the  priest-king  were  ostensibly 

betrayed  by  his  own  people.  It  is  thus  conceivable  that  the  Romans 

employed  certain  Sadducees  as,  say,  agents  provocateurs.  But  even  if 

this  were  the  case,  the  inescapable  fact  remains  that  Jesus  was  the 

victim  of  a  Roman  administration,  a 

Roman  court,  a  Roman  sentence,  Roman  soldiery  and  a  Roman  execution  an  execution 

which,  in  form,  was  reserved  exclusively  for  enemies  of  Rome. 

It  was  not  for  crimes  against  Judaism  that  Jesus  was  crucified,  but  for 

crimes  against  the  empire. z' 

Who  Was  Barabbas? 

6)     Is  there  any  evidence  in  the  Gospels  that  Jesus  actually  did  have  children? 

There  is  nothing  explicit.  But  rabbis  were  expected,  as  a  matter  of  course,  to  have 

children;  and  if  Jesus  was  a  rabbi,  it  would  have  been  most  unusual  for  him  to  remain 

childless.  Indeed,  it  would  have  been  unusual  for  him  to  remain  childless  whether  he  was 

a  rabbi  or  not. 

Granted,  these  arguments,  in  themselves,  do  not  constitute  any  positive 

evidence.  But  there  is  evidence  of  a  more  concrete,  more  specific 

kind.  It  consists  of  the  elusive  individual  who  figures  in  the  Gospels 

as  Barabbas,  or,  to  be  more  precise,  as  Jesus  Barabbas  for  it  is  by 

this  name  that  he  is  identified  in  the 


366 


Gospel  of  Matthew.  If  nothing  else,  the  coincidence  is  striking. 

Modern  scholars  are  uncertain  about  the  derivation  and  meaning  of 

"Barabbas'.  "Jesus  Barabbas'  may  be  a  corruption  of  "Jesus  Berabbi'. 

"Berabbi'  was  a  title  reserved  for  the  highest  and  most  esteemed  rabbis  and  was  placed 

after  the  rabbi's  given  name.  ""Jesus  Berabbi'  might  therefore  refer  to  Jesus  himself. 

Alternatively,  "Jesus  Barabbas'  might  originally  have  been  "Jesus  bar  Rabbi'  -  "Jesus,  son 

of  the  Rabbi'.  There  is  no  record  anywhere  of  Jesus's  own  father  having  been  a  rabbi. 

But  if  Jesus  had  a  son  named  after  himself,  that  son  would  indeed  have  been  "Jesus  bar 

Rabbi'. 

There  is  one  other  possibility  as  well.  "Jesus  Barabbas'  may  derive 

from 

"Jesus  bar  Abba';  and  since  "Abba'  is  "father'  in  Hebrew,  "Barabbas' 

would  then  mean  "son  of  the  father'  -  a  fairly  pointless  designation 

unless  the  "father'  is  in  some  way  special.  If  the  "father'  were 

actually  the 

"Heavenly  Father',  then  "Barabbas'  might  again  refer  to  Jesus  himself.  On  the  other  hand, 

if  Jesus  himself  is  the  "father',  "Barabbas'  would  again  refer  to  his  son. 

Whatever  the  meaning  and  derivation  of  the  name,  the  figure  of  Barabbas  is  extremely 

curious.  And  the  more  one  considers  the  incident  concerning  him,  the  more  apparent  it 

becomes  that  something  irregular  is  going  on  and  someone  is  attempting  to  conceal 

something.  In  the  first  place  Barabbas's  name,  like  the  Magdalene's,  seems  to  have  been 

subjected  to  a  deliberate  and  systematic  blackening.  Just  as  popular  tradition  depicts  the 

Magdalene  as  a  harlot,  so  it  depicts  Barabbas  as  a  "thief.  But  if  Barabbas  was  any  of  the 

things  his  name  suggests,  he  is  hardly  likely  to  have  been  a  common  thief.  Why  then 

blacken  his  name?  Unless  he  was  something  else  in  reality  something  which  the  editors 

of  the  New  Testament  did  not  want  posterity  to  know. 

Strictly  speaking  the  Gospels  themselves  do  not  describe  Barabbas  as  a 

thief.  According  to  Mark  and  Luke  he  is  a  political  prisoner,  a  rebel 

charged  with  murder  and  insurrection.  In  the  Gospel  of  Matthew, 

however, 

Barabbas  is  described  as  a  "notable  prisoner'.  And  in  the  Fourth 

Gospel 

Barabbas  is  said  to  be  (in  the  Greek)  a  les  tai  (John  18:40)  This  can 

be  translated  as  either  "robber'  or  "bandit'.  In  its  historical 

context,  however,  it  meant  something  quite  different.  Lestes  was  in 


367 


fact  the  term  habitually  applied  by  the  Romans  to  the  Zealots23  the 

militant  nationalistic  revolutionaries  who  for  some  time  had  been  fomenting  social 

upheaval.  Since  Mark  and  Luke  agree  that  Barabbas  is  guilty  of  insurrection,  and  since 

Matthew  does  not  contradict  this  assertion,  it  is  safe  to  conclude  that  Barabbas  was  a 

Zealot. 

But  this  is  not  the  only  information  available  on  Barabbas.  According 

to 

Luke,  he  had  been  involved  in  a  recent  "disturbance',  "sedition'  or  "riot'  in  the  city.  History 

makes  no  mention  of  any  such  turmoil  in  Jerusalem  at  the  time.  The  Gospels,  however, 

do.  According  to  the  Gospels,  there  had  been  a  civic  disturbance  in  Jerusalem,  only  a  few 

days  before  when  Jesus  and  his  followers  overturned  the  tables  of  the  money-lenders  at 

the  Temple. 

Was  this  the  disturbance  in  which  Barabbas  was  involved,  and  for  which  he  was 

imprisoned?  It  certainly  seems  likely.  And  in  that  case  there  is  one  obvious  conclusion 

that  Barabbas  was  one  of  Jesus's  entourage. 

According  to  modern  scholars,  the  "custom'  of  releasing  a  prisoner  on 

the 

Passover  did  not  exist.  But  even  if  it  did,  the  choice  of  Barabbas 

over 

Jesus  would  make  no  sense.  If  Barabbas  were  indeed  a  common  criminal,  guilty  of 

murder,  why  would  the  people  choose  to  have  his  life  spared? 

And  if  he  were  indeed  a  Zealot  or  a  revolutionary,  it  is  hardly  likely 

that 

Pilate  would  have  released  so  potentially  dangerous  a  character,  rather  than  a  harmless 

visionary  who  was  quite  prepared,  ostensibly,  to  "render  unto  Caesar'.  Of  all  the 

discrepancies,  inconsistencies  and  improbabilities  in  the  Gospels,  the  choice  of  Barabbas 

is  among  the  most  striking  and  most  inexplicable.  Something  would  clearly  seem  to  lie 

behind  so  clumsy  and  confusing  a  fabrication. 

One  modern  writer  has  proposed  an  intriguing  and  plausible  explanation. 

He  suggests  that  Barabbas  was  the  son  of  Jesus  and  Jesus  a  legitimate 

king.z4 

If  this  were  the  case,  the  choice  of  Barabbas  would  suddenly  make  sense. 

One  must  imagine  an  oppressed  populace  confronted  with  the  imminent  extermination  of 

their  spiritual  and  political  ruler  the  Messiah,  whose  advent  had  formerly  promised  so 

much.  In  such  circumstances,  would  not  the  dynasty  be  more  important  than  the 

individual?  Would  not  the  preservation  of  the  bloodline  be  paramount,  taking  precedence 

over  everything  else? 


368 


Would  not  a  people,  faced  with  the  dreadful  choice,  prefer  to  see 

their  king  sacrificed  in  order  that  his  offspring  and  his  line  might  survive?  If  the  line 

survived,  there  would  at  least  be  hope  for  the  future. 

It  is  certainly  not  impossible  that  Barabbas  was  Jesus's  son.  Jesus  is 

generally  believed  to  have  been  born  around  6  sc.  The  Crucifixion 

occurred  no  later  than  A.D.  36,  which  would  make  Jesus,  at  most, 

forty-two  years  of  age.  But  even  if  he  was  only  thirty-three  when  he 

died,  he  might  still  have  fathered  a  son.  In  accordance  with  the 

customs  of  the  time,  he  might  have  married  as  early  as  sixteen  or 

seventeen.  Yet  even  if  he  did  not  marry  until  aged  twenty,  he  might 

still  have  had  a  son  aged  thirteen  who,  by 

Judaic  custom,  would  have  been  considered  a  man.  And,  of  course,  there  may  well  have 

been  other  children  too.  Such  children  could  have  been  conceived  at  any  point  up  to 

within  a  day  or  so  of  the  Crucifixion. 

The  Crucifixion  in  Detail 

7)   Jesus  could  well  have  sired  a  number  of  children  prior  to  the 

Crucifjxion.  If  he  survived  the  Crucifixion,  however,  the  likelihood  of  offspring  would  be 

still  further  increased.  Is  there  any  evidence  that  Jesus  did  indeed  survive  the  Crucifixion 

or  that  the  Crucifixion  was  in  some  way  a  fraud? 

Given  the  portrait  of  him  in  the  Gospels,  it  is  inexplicable  that  Jesus  was  crucified  at  all. 

According  to  the  Gospels,  his  enemies  were  the  established  Jewish  interests  in 

Jerusalem.  But  such  enemies,  if  they  in  fact  existed,  could  have  stoned  him  to  death  of 

their  own  accord  and  on  their  own  authority,  without  involving  Rome  in  the  matter. 

According  to  the 

Gospels,  Jesus  had  no  particular  quarrel  with  Rome  and  did  not 

violate 

Roman  law.  And  yet  he  was  punished  by  the  Romans,  in  accordance  with 

Roman  law  and  Roman  procedures.  And  he  was  punished  by  crucifixion  a 

penalty  exclusively  reserved  for  those  guilty  of  crimes  against  the 

empire.  If 

Jesus  was  indeed  crucified,  he  cannot  have  been  as  apolitical  as  the 

Gospels  depict  him.  On  the  contrary,  he  must,  of  necessity,  have  done  something  to 

provoke  Roman  as  opposed  to  Jewish  -wrath. 


369 


Whatever  the  trespasses  for  which  Jesus  was  crucified,  his  apparent 
death  on  the  cross  is  fraught  with  inconsistencies.  There  is,  quite  simply,  no  reason  why 
his  Crucifixion,  as  the  Gospels  depict  it,  should  have  been,  fatal.  The  contention  that  it 
was  warrants  closer  scrutiny. 

The  Roman  practice  of  crucifixion  adhered  to  very  precise 
procedures. zs 

After  sentence  a  victim  would  be  flogged  and  consequently  weakened  by  loss  of  blood. 
His  outstretched  arms  would  then  be  fastened  usually  by  thongs  but  sometimes  by  nails  to 
a  heavy  wooden  beam  placed  horizontally  across  his  neck  and  shoulders.  Bearing  this 
beam,  he  would  then  be  led  to  the  place  of  execution.  Here,  with  the  victim  hanging  from 
it,  the  beam  would  be  raised  and  attached  to  a  vertical  post  or  stake. 
Hanging  thus  from  his  hands,  it  would  be  impossible  for  the  victim  to  breathe  unless  his 
feet  were  also  fixed  to  the  cross,  thus  enabling  him  to  press  down  on  them  and  relieve  the 
pressure  on  his  chest.  But,  despite  the  agony,  a  man  suspended  with  his  feet  fixed  and 
especially  a  fit  and  healthy  man  would  usually  survive  for  at  least  a  day  or  two.  Indeed, 
the  victim  would  often  take  as  much  as  a  week  to  die  from  exhaustion,  from  thirst,  or,  if 
nails  were  used,  from  blood  poisoning.  The  attenuated  agony  could  be  terminated  more 
quickly  by  breaking  the  victim's  legs  or  knees  which,  in  the  Gospels,  Jesus's  executioners 
are  about  to  do  before  they  are  forestalled.  Breaking  of  the  legs  or  knees  was  not  an 
additional  sadistic  torment.  On  the  contrary,  it  was  an  act  of  mercy  a  coup  de  grace  which 
caused  a  very  rapid  death.  With  nothing  to  support  him,  the  pressure  on  the  victim's  chest 
would  become  intolerable,  and  he  would  quickly  asphyxiate. 
There  is  consensus  among  modern  scholars  that  only  the  Fourth  Gospel 
rests  on  an  eyewitness  account  of  the  Crucifixion.  According  to  the 
Fourth 

Gospel,  Jesus's  feet  were  affixed  to  the  cross  thus  relieving  the  pressure  on  his  chest 
muscles  and  his  legs  were  not  broken.  He  should  therefore,  in  theory  at  least,  have 
survived  for  a  good  two  or  three  days. 

And  yet  he  is  on  the  cross  for  no  more  than  a  few  hours  before  being  pronounced  dead. 
In  the  Gospel  of  Mark,  even  Pilate  is  astonished  by  the  rapidity  with  which  death  occurs 
(Mark  15:44). 

What  can  have  constituted  the  cause  of  death?  Not  the  spear  in  his 
side,  for  the  Fourth  Gospel  maintains  that 


370 


Jesus  was  already  dead  when  this  wound  was  inflicted  on  him.  (John 

There  is  only  one  explanation  a  combination  of  exhaustion,  fatigue,  general  debilitation 

and  the  trauma  of  the  scourging.  But  not  even  these  factors  should  have  proved  fatal  so 

soon.  It  is  possible,  of  course,  that  they  did  despite  the  laws  of  physiology,  a  man  will 

sometimes  die  from  a  single  relatively  innocuous  blow.  But  there  would  still  seem  to  be 

something  suspicious  about  the  affair.  According  to  the  Fourth  Gospel,  Jesus's 

executioners  are  on  the  verge  of  breaking  his  legs,  thus  accelerating  his  death.  Why 

bother,  if  he  was  already  moribund?  There  would,  in  short,  be  no  point  in  breaking 

Jesus's  legs  unless  death  were  not  in  fact  imminent. 

In  the  Gospels  Jesus's  death  occurs  at  a  moment  that  is  almost  too 

convenient,  too  felicitously  opportune.  It  occurs  just  in  time  to 

prevent  his  executioners  breaking  his  legs.  And  by  doing  so,  it 

permits  him  to  fulfill  an  Old  Testament  prophecy.  Modern  authorities 

agree  that  Jesus,  quite  unabashedly,  modelled  and  perhaps  contrived  his 

life  in  accordance  with  such  prophecies,  which  heralded  the  coming  of  a 

Messiah.  It  was  for  this  reason  that  an  ass  had  to  be  procured  from 

Bethany  on  which  he  could  make  his  triumphal  entry  into  Jerusalem.  And 

the  details  of  the  Crucifixion  seem  likewise  engineered  to  enact  the 

prophecies  of  the  Old  Testament  .26 

In  short  Jesus's  apparent  and  opportune  demise'  which  in  the  nick  of  time,  saves  him  from 

certain  death  and  enables  him  to  fulfill  a  prophecy  is,  to  say  the  least,  suspect.  It  is  too 

perfect,  too  precise  to  be  coincidence.  It  must  either  be  a  later  interpolation  after  the  fact, 

or  part  of  a  carefully  contrived  plan.  There  is  much  additional  evidence  to  suggest  the 

latter. 

In  the  Fourth  Gospel  Jesus,  hanging  on  the  cross,  declares  that  he  thirsts. 

In  reply  to  this  complaint  he  is  proffered  a  sponge  allegedly  soaked  in 

vinegar  an  incident  that  also  occurs  in  the  other  Gospels.  This  sponge 

is  generally  interpreted  as  another  act  of  sadistic  derision.  But  was 

it  really?  Vinegar  or  soured  wine  is  a  temporary  stimulant,  with 

effects  not  unlike  smelling  salts.  It  was  often  used  at  the  time  to 

resuscitate  flagging  slaves  on  galleys.  For  a  wounded  and  exhausted 


371 


man,  a  sniff  or  taste  of  vinegar  would  induce  a  restorative  effect,  a 

momentary  surge  of  energy.  And  yet  in  Jesus's  case  the  effect  is  just 

the  contrary.  No  sooner  does  he  inhale  or  taste  the  sponge  then  he 

pronounces  his  final  words  and  "gives  up  the  ghost'.  Such  a  reaction 

to  vinegar  is  physiologically  inexplicable.  On  the  other  hand  such  a 

reaction  would  be  perfectly  compatible  with  a  sponge  soaked  not  in 

vinegar,  but  in  some  type  of  soporific  drug  a  compound  of  opium  and/or 

belladonna,  for  instance,  commonly  employed  in  the  Middle  East  at  the 

time.  But  why  proffer  a  soporific  drug?  Unless  the  act  of  doing  so, 

along  with  all  the  other  components  of  the  Crucifixion,  were  elements 

of  a  complex  and  ingenious  stratagem  a  stratagem  designed  to  produce  a 

semblance  of  death  when  the  victim,  in  fact,  was  still  alive.  Such  a 

stratagem  would  not  oily  have  saved 

Jesus's  life,  but  also  have  realised  the  Old  Testament  prophecies  of 

a 

Messiah. 

There  are  other  anomalous  aspects  of  the  Crucifixion  which  point  to  precisely  such  a 

stratagem.  According  to  the  Gospels  Jesus  is  crucified  at  a  place  called  Golgotha,  "the 

place  of  the  skull'.  Later  tradition  attempts  to  identify  Golgotha  as  a  barren,  more  or  less 

skull-shaped  hill  to  the  north-west  of  Jerusalem.  And  yet  the  Gospels  themselves  make  it 

clear  that  the  site  of  the  Crucifixion  is  very  different  from  a  barren  skull-shaped  hill.  The 

Fourth  Gospel  is  most  explicit  on  the  matter:  "Now  in  the  place  where  he  was  crucified 

there  was  a  garden;  and  in  the  garden  a  new  sepulchre,  wherein  was  never  man  yet  laid." 

(John  19:41)  Jesus,  then,  was  crucified  not  on  a  barren  skull-shaped  hill,  nor,  for  that 

matter,  in  any  "public  place  of  execution'.  He  was  crucified  in  or  immediately  adjacent  to  a 

garden  containing  a  private  tomb.  According  to  Matthew  (27:60)  this  tomb  and  garden 

were  the  personal  property  of  Joseph  of  Arimathea  who,  according  to  all  four  Gospels, 

was  both  a  man  of  wealth  and  a  secret  disciple  of  Jesus. 

Popular  tradition  depicts  the  Crucifixion  as  a  large  scale  public 

affair,  accessible  to  the  multitude  and  attended  by  a  cast  of 

thousands.  And  yet  the  Gospels  themselves  suggest  very  different 

circumstances.  According  to 

Matthew,  Mark  and  Luke,  the  Crucifixion  is  witnessed  by  most  people, 

including  the  women,  from  "afar  off  (Luke  23:49).  It  would  thus  seem 

clear  that  Jesus's  death  was  not  a  public  event,  but  a  private  one  a 


372 


private  crucifixion  performed  on  private  property.  A  number  of  modern 

scholars  argue  that  the  actual  site  was  probably  the  Garden  of  Gethsemane. 

If  Gethsemane  were  indeed  the  private  land  of  one  of  Jesus's  secret  disciples,  this  would 

explain  why  Jesus,  prior  to  the  Crucifixion,  could  make  such  free  use  of  the  place." 

Needless  to  say  a  private  crucifixion  on  private  property  leaves  considerable  room  for  a 

hoax  a  mock  crucifixion,  a  skilfully  stage-managed  ritual.  There  would  have  been  only  a 

few  eye-witnesses  immediately  present.  To  the  general  populace  the  drama  would  only 

have  been  visible,  as  the  Synoptic  Gospels  confirm,  from  some  distance.  And  from  such 

a  distance,  it  would  not  have  been  apparent  who  in  fact  was  being  crucified.  Or  if  he  was 

actually  dead. 

Such  a  charade  would,  of  course,  have  necessitated  some  connivance  and 

collusion  on  the  part  of  Pontius  Pilate  or  of  someone  influential  in 

the 

Roman  administration.  And  indeed  such  connivance  and  collusion  is  highly  probable. 

Granted,  Pilate  was  a  cruel  and  tyrannical  man.  But  he  was  also  corrupt  and  susceptible 

to  bribes.  The  historical  Pilate,  as  opposed  to  the  one  depicted  in  the  Gospels,  would  not 

have  been  above  sparing  Jesus's  life  in  exchange  for  a  sizeable  sum  of  money  and 

perhaps  a  guarantee  of  no  further  political  agitation. 

Whatever  his  motivation,  there  is,  in  any  case,  no  question  that  Pilate 

is  somehow  intimately  involved  in  the  affair.  He  acknowledges  Jesus's 

claim  as 

"King  of  the  Jews'.  He  also  expresses,  or  feigns  to  express,  surprise 

that 

Jesus's  death  occurs  as  quickly  as  it  apparently  does.  And,  perhaps  most  important  of  all, 

he  grants  Jesus's  body  to  Joseph  of  Arimathe<i. 

According  to  Roman  law  at  the  time,  a  crucified  man  was  denied  all 

burial. =a  Indeed  guards  were  customarily  posted  to  prevent  relatives  or 

friends  removing  the  bodies  of  the  dead.  The  victim  would  simply  be 

left  on  the  cross,  at  the  mercy  of  the  elements  and  carrion  birds.  Yet 

Pilate,  in  a  flagrant  breach  of  procedure,  readily  grants  Jesus's  body 

to  Joseph  of 

Arimathea.  This  clearly  attests  to  some  complicity  on  Pilate's  part. 

And  it  may  attest  to  other  things  as  well. 


373 


In  English  translations  of  Mark's  Gospel  Joseph  asks  Pilate  for 

Jesus's  body.  Pilate  expresses  surprise  that  Jesus  is  dead,  checks 

with  a  centurion,  then,  satisfied,  consents  to  Joseph's  request.  This 

would  appear  straightforward  enough  at  first  glance;  but  in  the 

original 

Greek  version  of  Mark's  Gospel,  the  matter  becomes  rather  more  complicated. 

In  the  Greek  version  when  Joseph  asks  for  Jesus's  body,  he  uses  the 

word  soma  a  word  applied  only  to  a  living  body.  Pilate,  assenting  to 

the  request,  employs  the  word  ptoma  which  means  "corpse'. =9  According 

to  the 

Greek,  then,  Joseph  explicitly  asks  for  a  living  body  and  Pilate  grants  him  what  he  thinks, 

or  pretends  to  think,  is  a  dead  one. 

Given  the  prohibition  against  burying  crucified  men,  it  is  also  extraordinary  that  Joseph 

receives  any  body  at  all.  On  what  grounds  does  he  receive  it?  What  claim  does  he  have 

to  Jesus's  body?  If  he  was  a  secret  disciple, -he  could  hardly  plead  any  claim  without 

disclosing  his  secret  discipleship  unless  Pilate  was  already  aware  of  it,  or  unless  there 

was  some  other  factor  involved  which  militated  in  Joseph's  favour. 

There  is  little  information  about  Joseph  of  Arimathea.  The  Gospels  report  only  that  he 

was  a  secret  disciple  of  Jesus,  possessed  great  wealth  and  belonged  to  the  Sanhedrin  the 

Council  of  Elders  which  ruled  the  Judaic  community  of  Jerusalem  under  Roman  auspices. 

It  would  thus  seem  apparent  that  Joseph  was  an  influential  man.  And  this  conclusion 

receives  confirmation  from  his  dealings  with  Pilate,  and  from  the  fact  that  he  possesses  a 

tract  of  land  with  a  private  tomb. 

Medieval  tradition  portrays  Joseph  of  Arimathea  as  a  custodian  of  the 

Holy 

Grail;  and  Perceval  is  said  to  be  of  his  lineage.  According  to  other  later  traditions,  he  is  in 

some  way  related  by  blood  to  Jesus  and  Jesus's  family. 

If  this  was  indeed  the  case,  it  would,  at  very  least,  have  furnished 

him  with  some  plausible  claim  to  Jesus's  body  -for  while  Pilate  would 

hardly  grant  the  corpse  of  an  executed  criminal  to  a  random  stranger, 

he  might  well  do  so,  with  the  incentive  of  a  bribe,  to  the  dead  man's 

kin.  If  Joseph  -  a  wealthy  and  influential  member  of  the  Sanhedrin  was 

indeed  Jesus's  kin,  he  bears  further  testimony  to  Jesus's  aristocratic 

pedigree.  And  if  he  was  Jesus's  kin,  his  association  with  the  Holy 


374 


Grail  the  "blood  royal'  would  be  all  the  more  explicable.  The 

Scenario 

We  had  already  sketched  a  tentative  hypothesis  which  proposed  a  bloodline  descended 

from  Jesus.  We  now  began  to  enlarge  on  that  hypothesis  and  albeit  still  provisionally  fill  in 

a  number  of  crucial  details.  As  we  did  so,  the  overall  picture  began  to  gain  both 

coherence  and  plausibility. 

It  seemed  increasingly  clear  that  Jesus  was  a  priest-king  an  aristocrat 

and  legitimate  claimant  to  the  throne  -embarking  on  an  attempt  to 

regain  his  rightful  heritage.  He  himself  would  have  been  a  native  of 

Galilee,  a  traditional  hotbed  of  opposition  to  the  Roman  regime.  At 

the  same  time,  he  would  have  had  numerous  noble,  rich  and  influential 

supporters  throughout 

Palestine,  including  the  capital  city  of  Jerusalem;  and  one  of  these  supporters,  a  powerful 

member  of  the  Sanhedrin,  may  also  have  been  his  kin. 

In  the  Jerusalem  suburb  of  Bethany,  moreover,  was  the  home  of  either  his  wife  or  his 

wife's  family;  and  here,  on  the  eve  of  his  triumphal  entry  into  the  capital,  the  aspiring 

priest-king  resided.  Here  he  established  the  centre  for  his  mystery  cult.  Here  he 

augmented  his  following  by  performing  ritual  initiations,  including  that  of  his  brother-in-law. 

Such  an  aspiring  priest-king  would  have  generated  powerful  opposition  in  certain  quarters 

inevitably  among  the  Roman  administration  and  perhaps  among  entrenched  Judaic 

interests  represented  by  the  Sadducees.  One  or  both  of  these  interests  apparently 

contrived  to  thwart  his  bid  for  the  throne. 

But  in  their  attempt  to  exterminate  him  they  were  not  as  successful  as 

they  had  hoped  to  be.  For  the  priest-king  would  seem  to  have  had 

friends  in  high  places;  and  these  friends,  working  in  collusion  with  a 

corrupt,  easily  bribed  Roman  Procurator,  appear  to  have  engineered  a 

mock  crucifixion  on  private  grounds,  inaccessible  to  all  but  a  select 

few.  With  the  general  populace  kept  at  a  convenient  distance,  an 

execution  was  then  staged  in  which  a  substitute  took  the  priest-king's 

place  on  the  cross,  or  in  which  the  priest-king  himself  did  not 

actually  die.  Towards  dusk  which  would  have  further  impeded  visibility 

a  "body'  was  removed  to  an  opportunely  adjacent  tomb,  from  which,  a  day 


375 


or  two  later,  it  "miraculously'  disappeared.  If  our  scenario  was 

accurate,  where  did  Jesus  go  then?  So  far  as  our  hypothesis  of  a 

bloodline  was  concerned,  the  answer  to  that  question  did  not 

particularly  matter.  According  to  certain~  Islamic  and  Indian  legends, 

he  eventually  died  at  a  ripe  old  age,  somewhere  in  the  East  in  Kashmir, 

it  is  claimed  most  frequently.  On  the  other  hand,  an  Australian 

journalist  has  put  forward  an  intriguing  and  persuasive  argument  that 

Jesus  died  at 

Masada  when  the  fortress  fell  to  the  Romans  in  A.D.  74  by  which  time  he  would  have 

been  approaching  his  eightieth  year." 

According  to  the  letter  we  received,  the  documents  found  by  Berenger 

Sauniere  at  Rennes-leChateau  contained  "incontrovertible  proof  that  Jesus  was  alive  in 

A.D.  45,  but  there  is  no  indication  as  to  where. 

One  likely  possibility  would  be  Egypt,  and  specifically  Alexandria 

-where,  at  about  the  same  time,  the  sage  Ormus  is  said  to  have  created  the  Rose- 
Croix  by  amalgamating  Christianity  with  earlier,  pre-Christian  mysteries.   It 
has  even  been  hinted  that  Jesus' s  mummified  body  may  be  concealed  somewhere  in 
the  environs  of  Rennes-leChateau  -which  would  explain  the  ciphered  message  in 

Sauniere' s  parchments  "IL  EST  LA  MORT'  ("He  is  there  dead'). 

We  are  not  prepared  to  assert  that  he  accompanied  his  family  to  Marseilles. 

In  fact,  circumstances  would  argue  against  it.  He  might  not  have  been  in  any  condition  to 

travel,  and  his  presence  would  have  constituted  a  threat  to  his  relatives'  safety.  He  may 

have  deemed  it  more  important  to  remain  in  the  Holy  Land  like  his  brother,  Saint  James  to 

pursue  his  objectives  there.  In  short,  we  can  offer  no  real  suggestion  about  what  became 

of  him  any  more  than  the  Gospels  themselves  do. 

For  the  purposes  of  our  hypothesis,  however,  what  happened  to  Jesus  was 

of  less  importance  than  what  happened  to  the  holy  family  and  especially 

to  his  brother-in-law,  his  wife  and  his  children.  If  our  scenario  was 

correct,  they,  together  with  Joseph  of  Arimathea  and  certain  others, 

were  smuggled  by  ship  from  the  Holy  Land.  And  when  they  were  set 

ashore  at  Marseilles,  the  Magdalene  would  indeed  have  brought  the 

Sangraal  the  "blood  royal',  the  scion  of  the  house  of  David  into 


376 


France.  13  The  Secret  the  Church  Forbade 

We  were  well  aware,  of  course,  that  our  scenario  did  not  concur  with 

established  Christian  teachings.  But  the  more  we  researched  the  more 

apparent  it  became  that  those  teachings,  as  they  have  been  passed  down 

through  the  centuries,  represent  only  a  highly  selective  compilation  of 

fragments,  subjected  to  stringent  expurgation  and  revision.  The  New 

Testament,  in  other  words,  offers  a  portrait  of  Jesus  and  his  age  that  conforms  to  the 

needs  of  certain  vested  interests  of  certain  groups  and  individuals  who  had,  and  to  a 

significant  degree  still  have,  an  important  stake  in  the  matter.  And  anything  that  might 

compromise  or  embarrass  these  interests  like  the  "secret'  Gospel  of  Mark,  for  example 

has  been  duly  excised.  So  much  has  been  excised,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  that  a  sort  of 

vacuum  has  been  created.  In  this  vacuum  speculation  becomes  both  justified  and 

necessary. 

If  Jesus  was  a  legitimate  claimant  to  the  throne,  it  is  probable  that  he  was  supported,  at 

least  initially,  by  a  relatively  small  percentage  of  the  populace  his  immediate  family  from 

Galilee,  certain  other  members  of  his  own  aristocratic  social  class,  and  a  few  strategically 

placed  representatives  in  Judaea  and  the  capital  city  of  Jerusalem. 

Such  a  following,  albeit  distinguished,  would  hardly  have  been 

sufficient  to  ensure  the  realisation  of  his  objectives  the  success  of 

his  bid  for  the  throne.  In  consequence  he  would  have  been  obliged  to 

recruit  a  more  substantial  following  from  other  classes  in  the  same  way 

that  Bonnie 

Prince  Charlie,  to  pursue  a  previous  analogy,  did  in  1745. 

How  does  one  recruit  a  sizeable  following?  Obviously  by  promulgating  a 

message  calculated  to  enlist  their  allegiance  and  support.  Such  a 

message  need  not  necessarily  have  been  as  cynical  as  those  associated 


377 


with  modern  politics.  On  the  contrary  it  may  have  been  promulgated  in 

perfectly  good  faith,  with  thoroughly  noble  and  burning  idealism.  But  despite  its  distinctly 

religious  orientation,  its  primary  objective  would  have  been  the  same  as  those  of  modern 

politics  to  ensure  the  adherence  of  the  populace.  Jesus  promulgated  a  message  which 

attempted  to  do  just  that  to  offer  hope  to  the  downtrodden,  the  afflicted,  the 

disenfranchised,  the  oppressed.  In  short  it  was  a  message  with  a  promise.  If  the  modern 

reader  overcomes  his  prejudices  and  preconceptions  on  the  matter,  he  will  discern  a 

mechanism  extraordinarily  akin  to  that  visible  everywhere  in  the  world  today  a  mechanism 

whereby  people  are,  and  always  have  been,  united  in  the  name  of  a  common  cause  and 

welded  into  an  instrument  for  the  overthrow  of  a  despotic  regime.  The  point  is  that 

Jesus's  message  was  both  ethical  and  political.  It  was  directed  to  a  particular  segment  of 

the  populace  in  accordance  with  political  considerations.  For  it  would  only  have  been 

among  the  oppressed,  the  downtrodden,  the  disenfranchised  and  the  afflicted  that  he 

could  have  hoped  to  recruit  a  sizeable  following.  The  Sadducees,  who  had  come  to  terms 

with  the  Roman  occupation,  would  have  been  as  loath  as  all  the  Sadducees  throughout 

history  to  part  with  what  they  possessed,  or  to  risk  their  security  and  stability. 

Jesus's  message,  as  it  appears  in  the  Gospels,  is  neither  wholly  new 

nor  wholly  unique.  It  is  probable  that  he  himself  was  a  Pharisee,  and 

his  teachings  contain  a  number  of  elements  of  Pharisaic  doctrine.  As 

the  Dead 

Sea  Scrolls  attest,  they  also  contain  a  number  of  important  aspects 

of 

Essene  thought.  But  if  the  message,  as  such,  was  not  entirely  original,  the  means  of 

transmitting  it  probably  was.  Jesus  himself  was  undoubtedly  an  immensely  charismatic 

individual.  He  may  well  have  had  an  aptitude  for  healing  and  other  such  "miracles'.  He 

certainly  possessed  a  gift  for  communicating  his  ideas  by  means  of  evocative  and  vivid 

parables  which  did  not  require  any  sophisticated  training  in  his  audience,  but  were 

accessible,  in  some  sense,  to  the  populace  at  large. 

Moreover,  unlike  his 

Essene  precursors,  Jesus  was  not  obliged  to  confine  himself  to 

forecasting  the  advent  of  a  Messiah.  He  could  claim  to  be  that 

Messiah.  And  this,  quite  naturally,  would  have  imparted  a  much  greater 


378 


authority  and  credibility  to  his  words.  It  is  clear  that  by  the  time 

of  his  triumphal  entry  into  Jerusalem  Jesus  had  recruited  a  following.  But  this  following 

would  have  been  composed  of  two  quite  distinct  elements  whose  interests  were  not 

precisely  the  same. 

On  the  one  hand  there  would  have  been  a  small  nucleus  of  "initiates'  immediate  family, 

other  members  of  the  nobility,  wealthy  and  influential  supporters,  whose  primary  objective 

was  to  see  their  candidate  installed  on  the  throne.  On  the  other  hand  there  would  have 

been  a  much  larger  entourage  of  "common  people'  the  "rank  and  file'  of  the  movement 

whose  primary  objective  was  to  see  the  message,  and  the  promise  it  contained,  fulfilled. 

It  is  important  to  recognise  the  distinction  between  these  two  factions. 

Their  political  objective  to  establish  Jesus  on  the  throne  would  have  been  the  same.  But 

their  motivations  would  have  been  essentially  different. 

When  the  enterprise  failed,  as  it  obviously  did,  the  uneasy  alliance  between  these  two 

factions  "adherents  of  the  message'  and  adherents  of  the  family  would  seem  to  have 

collapsed.  Confronted  by  debacle  and  the  threat  of  imminent  annihilation,  the  family 

would  have  placed  a  priority  on  the  single  factor  which,  from  time  immemorial,  has  been  of 

paramount  importance  to  noble  and  royal  families  preservation  of  the  bloodline  at  all  costs 

and,  if  necessary,  in  exile.  For  the  "adherents  of  the  message'  however,  the  family's 

future  would  have  become  irrelevant.  For  them  survival  of  the  bloodline  would  have  been 

of  secondary  consequence.  Their  primary  objective  would  have  been  perpetuation  and 

dissemination  of  the  message. 

Christianity,  as  it  evolves  through  its  early  centuries  and  eventually  comes  down  to  us 

today,  is  a  product  of  the  "adherents  of  the  message'. 

The  course  of  its  spread  and  development  has  been  too  widely  charted  by 

other  scholars  to  necessitate  much  attention  here.  Suffice  it  to  say 

that  with 

Saint  Paul,  'the  message'  had  already  begun  to  assume  a  crystallised  and  definitive  form; 

and  this  form  became  the  basis  on  which  the  whole  theological  edifice  of  Christianity  was 

erected.  By  the  time  the  Gospels  were  composed,  the  basic  tenets  of  the  new  religion 

were  virtually  complete. 

The  new  religion  was  oriented  primarily  towards  a  Roman  or  Romanised 


379 


audience.  Thus  the  role  of  Rome  in  Jesus's  death  was,  of  necessity, 

whitewashed,  and  guilt  was  transferred  to  the  Jews.  But  this  was  not  the  only  liberty  taken 

with  events  to  render  them  palatable  to  the  Roman  world.  For  the  Roman  world  was 

accustomed  to  deifying  its  rulers,  and  Caesar  had  already  been  officially  instated  as  a 

god.  In  order  to  compete,  Jesus  whom  nobody  had  previously  deemed  divine  had  to  be 

deified  as  well.  In  Paul's  hands  he  was. 

Before  it  could  be  successfully  disseminated  from  Palestine  to  Syria, 

Asia  Minor,  Greece,  Egypt,  Rome  and  Western  Europe  the  new  religion  had 

to  be  made  acceptable  to  the  people  of  those  regions.  And  it  had  to  be 

capable  of  holding  its  own  against  already  established  creeds.  The  new 

god,  in  short,  had  to  be  comparable  in  power,  in  majesty,  in  repertoire 

of  miracles,  to  those  he  was  intended  to  displace.  If  Jesus  was  to 

gain  a  foothold  in  the  Romanised  world  of  his  time,  he  had  perforce  to 

become  a  fully  fledged  god.  Not  a  Messiah  in  the  old  sense  of  that 

term,  not  a  priest-king,  but  God  incarnate  who,  like  his  Syrian, 

Phoenician,  Egyptian  and  classical  counterparts,  passed  through  the 

underworld  and  the  harrowing  of  Hell  and  emerged,  rejuvenated,  with  the 

spring.  It  was  at  this  point  that  the  idea  of  the  Resurrection  first 

assumed  such  crucial  importance,  and  for  a  fairly  obvious  reason  to 

place  Jesus  on  a  par  with  Tammuz, 

Adonis,  Attis,  Osiris  and  all  the  other  dying  and  reviving  gods  who 

populated  both  the  world  and  the  consciousness  of  their  time.  For 

precisely  the  same  reason  the  doctrine  of  the  virgin  birth  was 

promulgated.  And  the 


380 


Easter  festival  -the  festival  of  death  and  resurrection  was  made  to  coincide  with  the  spring 


381 


382 


Given  the  need  to  disseminate  a  god  myth,  the  actual  corporeal  family 

of  the  "god',  and  the  political  and  dynastic  elements  in  his  story, 

would  have  become  superfluous.  Fettered  as  they  were  to  a  specific 

time  and  place,  they  would  have  detracted  from  his  claim  to 

universality.  Thus,  to  further  the  claim  of  universality,  all 

political  and  dynastic  elements  were  rigorously  excised  from  Jesus's 

biography.  And  thus  all  references  to 

Zealots,  for  example,  and  Essenes,  were  also  discreetly  removed.  Such 

references  would  have  been,  at  the  very  least,  embarrassing.  It  would 


383 


not  have  appeared  seemly  for  a  god  to  be  involved  in  a  complex  and 

ultimately  ephemeral  political  and  dynastic  conspiracy  and  especially  one  that  failed.  In 

the  end  nothing  was  left  but  what  was  contained  in  the  Gospels  an  account  of  austere, 

mythic  simplicity,  occurring  only  incidentally  in  the  Roman-occupied  Palestine  of  the  first 

century  and  primarily  in  the  eternal  present  of  all  myth. 

While  "the  message'  developed  in  this  fashion,  the  family  and  its  supporters  do  not  seem 

to  have  been  idle.  Julius  Africanus,  writing  in  the  first  century,  reports  that  Jesus's 

surviving  relatives  bitterly  accused  the  Herodian  rulers  of  destroying  the  genealogies  of 

Jewish  nobles,  thereby  removing  all  evidence  that  might  challenge  their  claim  to  the 

throne.  And  these  same  relatives  are  said  to  have  "migrated  through  the  world',  carrying 

with  them  certain  genealogies  which  had  escaped  the  destruction  of  documents  during  the 

revolt  between  A.D.  66  and  74." 

For  the  propagators  of  the  new  myth,  the  existence  of  this  family  would  quickly  have 

become  more  than  an  irrelevance.  It  would  have  become  a  potential  embarrassment  of 

daunting  proportions.  For  the  family  who  could  bear  first-hand  testimony  to  what  really 

and  historically  happened  would  have  constituted  a  dangerous  threat  to  the  myth.  Indeed, 

on  the  basis  of  first-hand  knowledge,  the  family  could  have  exploded  the  myth  completely. 

Thus  in  the  early  days  of  Christianity  all  mention  of  a  noble  or  royal 

family,  of  a  bloodline,  of  political  or  dynastic  ambitions  would  have 

had  to  be  suppressed.  And  since  the  cynical  realities  of  the  situation 

must  be  acknowledged  the  family  itself,  who  might  betray  the  new 

religion,  should,  if  at  all  possible,  be  exterminated.  Hence  the  need 

for  the  utmost  secrecy  on  the  part  of  the  family.  Hence  the 

intolerance  of  early  Church  fathers  towards  any  deviation  from  the 

orthodoxy  they  endeavoured  to  impose:  And  hence  also,  perhaps,  one  of 

the  origins  of  anti-Semitism.  In  effect  the  "adherents  of  the  message' 

and  propagators  of  the  myth  would  have  accomplished  a  dual  purpose  by 

blaming  the  Jews  and  exonerating  the 

Romans.  They  would  not  only  have  made  the  myth  and  "the  message' 

palatable  to  a  Roman  audience.  They  would  also,  since  the  family  was 

Jewish,  have  impugned  the  family's  credibility.  And  the  anti-Jewish 

feeling  they  engendered  would  have  furthered  their  objectives  still 


384 


more.  If  the  family  had  found  refuge  in  a  Jewish  community  somewhere 

within  the  empire,  popular  persecution  might,  in  its  momentum,  conveniently  silence 

dangerous  witnesses. 

By  pandering  to  a  Roman  audience,  deifying  Jesus  and  casting  the  Jews 

as  scapegoats,  the  spread  of  what  subsequently  became  Christian 

orthodoxy  was  assured  of  success.  The  position  of  this  orthodoxy  began 

to  consolidate  itself  definitively  in  the  second  century,  principally 

through  Irenaeus, 

Bishop  of  Lyons  around  A.D.  180.  Probably  more  than  any  other  early  Church  father, 

Irenaeus  contrived  to  impart  to  Christian  theology  a  stable  and  coherent  form.  He 

accomplished  this  primarily  by  means  of  a  voluminous  work,  Libros  Quinque  Adversus 

Haereses  ("Five  Books  against  Heresies').  In  his  exhaustive  opus  Irenaeus  catalogued  all 

deviations  from  the  coalescing  orthodoxy,  and  vehemently  condemned  them.  Deploring 

diversity,  he  maintained  there  could  be  only  one  valid  church,  outside  which  there  could 

be  no  salvation.  Whoever  challenged  this  assertion,  Irenaeus  declared  to  be  a  heretic  to 

be  expelled  and,  if  possible,  destroyed. 

Among  the  numerous  diverse  forms  of  early  Christianity,  it  was  Gnosticism  that  incurred 

Irenaeus's  most  vituperative  wrath.  Gnosticism  rested  on  personal  experience,  personal 

union  with  the  divine.  For  Irenaeus  this  naturally  undermined  the  authority  of  priests  and 

bishops,  and  so  impeded  the  attempt  to  impose  uniformity.  As  a  result  he  devoted  his 

energies  to  suppressing  Gnosticism.  To  this  end  it  was  necessary  to  discourage 

individual  speculation,  and  to  encourage  unquestioning  faith  in  fixed  dogma.  A  theological 

system  was  required,  a  structure  of  codified  tenets  which  allowed  of  no  interpretation  by 

the  individual.  In  opposition  to  personal  experience  and  gnosis,  Irenaeus  insisted  on  a 

single  "catholic'  (that  is  universal)  church  resting  on  apostolic  foundation  and  succession. 

And  to  implement  the  creation  of  such  a  church,  Irenaeus  recognised  the  need  for  a 

definitive  canon  a  fixed  list  of  authoritative  writings. 

Accordingly  he  compiled  such  a  canon,  sifting  through  the  available 

works,  including  some,  excluding  others.  Irenaeus  is  the  first  writer 

whose  New 

Testament  canon  conforms  essentially  to  that  of  the  present  day. 


385 


Such  measures,  of  course,  did  not  prevent  the  spread  of  early 

heresies.  On  the  contrary,  they  continued  to  flourish.  But  with 

Irenaeus,  orthodoxy  the  type  of  Christianity  promulgated  by  the  "adherents  of  the 

message'  assumed  a  coherent  form  that  ensured  its  survival  and  eventual  triumph.  It  is 

not  unreasonable  to  claim  that  Irenaeus  paved  the  way  for  what  occurred  during  and 

immediately  after  the  reign  of  Constantine  under  whose  auspices  the  Roman  Empire 

became,  in  some  sense,  a  Christian  empire. 

The  role  of  Constantine  in  the  history  and  development  of  Christianity  has  been  fals5fied, 

misrepresented  and  misunderstood.  The  spurious  eighth-century  "Donation  of 

Constantine',  discussed  in  Chapter  9,  has  served  to  confuse  matters  even  further  in  the 

eyes  of  subsequent  writers. 

Nevertheless,  Constantine  is  often  credited  with  the  decisive  victory  of  the  "adherents  of 

the  message'  and  not  wholly  without  justification.  We  were  therefore  obliged  to  consider 

him  more  closely,  and  in  order  to  do  so  we  had  to  dispel  certain  of  the  more  fanciful  and 

specious  accomplishments  ascribed  to  him. 

According  to  later  Church  tradition.  Constantine  had  inherited  from 

his  father  a  sympathetic  predisposition  towards  Christianity.  In  fact 

this  predisposition  seems  to  have  been  primarily  a  matter  of 

expediency,  for 

Christians  by  then  were  numerous  and  Constantine  needed  all  the  help  he 

could  get  against  Maxentius,  his  rival  for  the  imperial  throne.  In 

A.D.213 

Maxentius  was  routed  at  the  Battle  of  Milvian  Bridge,  thus  leaving 

Constantine's  claim  unchallenged.  Immediately  before  this  crucial 

engagement  Constantine  is  said  to  have  had  a  vision  later  reinforced  by 

a  prophetic  dream  of  a  luminous  cross  hanging  in  the  sky.  A  sentence 

was  supposedly  inscribed  across  it  In  Hoc  Signo  Vinces  ("By  this  sign 

you  will  conquer').  Tradition  recounts  that  Constantine,  deferring  to 

this  celestial  portent,  ordered  the  shields  of  his  troops  hastily 

emblazoned  with  the  Christian  monogram  the  Greek  letter  Chi  Rho,  the 

first  two  letters  of  the  word  "Christos'.  As  a  result  Constantine's 

victory  over 

Maxentius  at  Milvian  Bridge  came  to  represent  a  miraculous  triumph  of 

Christianity  over  paganism. 

This,  then,  is  the  popular  Church  tradition,  on  the  basis  of  which 

Constantine  is  often  thought  to  have  "converted  the  Roman  Empire  to 


386 


Christianity'.  In  actual  fact,  however,  Constantine  did  no  such 

thing.  But  in  order  to  decide  precisely  what  he  did  do,  we  must  examine  the  evidence 

more  closely. 

In  the  first  place  Constantine's  "conversion'  if  that  is  the  appropriate  word  does  not  seem 

to  have  been  Christian  at  all  but  unabashedly  pagan. 

He  appears  to  have  had  some  sort  of  vision,  or  numinous  experience,  in 

the  precincts  of  a  pagan  temple  to  the  Gallic  Apollo,  either  in  the 

Vosges  or  near  Autun.  According  to  a  witness  accompanying 

Constantine's  army  at  the  time,  the  vision  was  of  the  sun  god  the  deity 

worshipped  by  certain  cults  under  the  name  of  "Sol  Invictus',  "the 

Invincible  Sun'.  There  is  evidence  that  Constantine,  just  before  his 

vision,  had  been  initiated  into  a  Sol 

Invictus  cult.  In  any  case  the  Roman  Senate,  after  the  Battle  of 

Milvian 

Bridge,  erected  a  triumphal  arch  in  the  Colosseum.  According  to  the 

inscription  on  this  arch,  Constantine's  victory  was  won  "through  the 

prompting  of  the  Deity'.  But  the  Deity  in  question  was  not  Jesus.  It 

was 

Sol  Invictus,  the  pagan  sun  god.  z 

Contrary  to  tradition,  Constantine  did  not  make  Christianity  the 

official  state  religion  of  Rome.  The  state  religion  of  Rome  under 

Constantine  was,  in  fact,  pagan  sun  worship;  and  Constantine,  all  his 

life,  acted  as  its  chief  priest.  Indeed  his  reign  was  called  a  "sun 

emperor  ship  and  Sol 

Invictus  figured  everywhere  including  the  imperial  banners  and  the 

coinage  of  the  realm.  The  image  of  Constantine  as  a  fervent  convert 

to 

Christianity  is  clearly  wrong.  He  himself  was  not  even  baptised  until 

337  when  he  lay  on  his  deathbed  and  was  apparently  too  weakened  or  too 

apathetic  to  protest.  Nor  can  he  be  credited  with  the  Chi  Rho 

monogram.  An  inscription  bearing  this  monogram  was  found  on  a  tomb  at 

Pompeii,  dating  from  two  and  a  half  centuries  before. 3 

The  cult  of  Sol  Invictus  was  Syrian  in  origin  and  imposed  by  Roman 

emperors  on  their  subjects  a  century  before  Constantine.  Although  it 

contained  elements  of  Baal  and  Astarte  worship,  it  was  essentially 

monotheistic.  In  effect,  it  posited  the  sun  god  as  the  sum  of  all 

attributes  of  all  other  gods,  and  thus  peacefully  subsumed  its 

potential  rivals.  Moreover,  it  conveniently  harmonised  with  the  cult 

of  Mithras  which  was  also  prevalent  in  Rome  and  the  empire  at  the  time, 


387 


and  which  also  involved  solar  worship.  For  Constantine  the  cult  of 

Sol  Invictus  was,  quite  simply,  expedient.  His  primary,  indeed  obsessive,  objective  was 

unity  unity  in  politics,  in  religion  and  in  territory.  A  cult,  or  state  religion,  that  included  all 

other  cults  within  it  obviously  abetted  this  objective.  And  it  was  under  the  auspices  of  the 

Sol  Invictus  cult  that  Christianity  consolidated  its  position. 

Christian  orthodoxy  had  much  in  common  with  the  cult  of  Sol  Invictus; 

and  thus  the  former  was  able  to  flourish  unmolested  under  the  taller's 

umbrella  of  tolerance.  The  cult  of  Sol  Invictus,  being  essentially 

monotheistic,  paved  the  way  for  the  monotheism  of  Christianity.  And 

the  cult  of  Sol 

Invictus  was  convenient  in  other  respects  as  well  -respects  which  both  modified  and 

facilitated  the  spread  of  Christianity.  By  an  edict  promulgated  in  A.D.  321 ,  for  example, 

Constantine  ordered  the  law  courts  closed  on  'the  venerable  day  of  the  sun',  and  decreed 

that  this  day  be  a  day  of  rest.  Christianity  had  hitherto  held  the  Jewish  Sabbath  Saturday 

as  sacred.  Now,  in  accordance  with  Constantine's  edict,  it  transferred  its  sacred  day  to 

Sunday.  This  not  only  brought  it  into  harmony  with  the  existing  regime,  but  also  permitted 

it  to  further  dissociate  itself  from  its  Judaic  origins.  Until  the  fourth  century,  moreover, 

Jesus's  birthday  had  been  celebrated  on  January  6th. 

For  the  cult  of  Sol  Invictus,  however,  the  crucial  day  of  the  year  was 

December  25th  the  festival  of  Natalis 

Invictus,  the  birth  (or  rebirth)  of  the  sun,  when  the  days  began  to  grow  longer.  In  this 

respect,  too,  Christianity  brought  itself  into  alignment  with  the  regime  and  the  established 

state  religion. 

The  cult  of  Sol  Invictus  meshed  happily  with  that  of  Mithras  so  much 

so,  indeed,  that  the  two  are  often  confused. 4  Both  emphasised  the 

status  of  the  sun.  Both  held  Sunday  as  sacred.  Both  celebrated  a 

major  birth  festival  on 

December  25th.  As  a  result  Christianity  could  also  find  points  of  convergence  with 

Mithraism  the  more  so  as  Mithraism  stressed  the  immortality  of  the  soul,  a  future  judgment 

and  the  resurrection  of  the  dead. 

In  the  interests  of  unity  Constantine  deliberately  chose  to  blur  the  distinctions  between 

Christianity,  Mithraism  and  Sol  Invictus  deliberately  chose  not  to  see  any  contradiction 

between  them.  Thus  he  tolerated  the  deified  Jesus  as  the  earthly  manifestation  of  Sol 

Invictus. 


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Thus  he  would  build  a  Christian  church  and,  at  the  same  time,  statues 

of  the  Mother 

Goddess  Cybele  and  of  Sol  Invictus,  the  sun  god  the  latter  being  an 

image  of  himself,  bearing  his  features.  In  such  eclectic  and 

ecumenical  gestures,  the  emphasis  on  unity  can  be  seen  again.  Faith, 

in  short,  was  for 

Constantine  a  political  matter;  and  any  faith  that  was  conducive  to  unity  was  treated  with 

forbearance. 

While  Constantine  was  not,  therefore,  the  "good  Christian'  that  later  tradition  depicts,  he 

consolidated,  in  the  name  of  unity  and  uniformity,  the  status  of  Christian  orthodoxy.  In 

A.D.  325,  for  example,  he  convened  the  Council  of  Nicea.  At  this  council  the  dating  of 

Easter  was  established. 

Rules  were  framed  which  defined  the,  authority  of  bishops,  thereby  paving  the  way  for  a 

concentration  of  power  in  ecclesiastical  hands. 

Most  important  of  all,  the  Council  of  Nicea  decided,  by  vote, 5  that 

Jesus  was  a  god,  not  a  mortal  prophet.  Again,  however,  it  must  be 

emphasised  that 

Constantine's  paramount  consideration  was  not  piety  but  unity  and 

expediency.  As  a  god  Jesus  could  be  associated  conveniently  with  Sol 

Invictus.  As  a  mortal  prophet  he  would  have  been  more  difficult  to  accommodate.  In 

short,  Christian  orthodoxy  lent  itself  to  a  politically  desirable  fusion  with  the  official  state 

religion;  and  in  so  far  as  it  did  so  Constantine  conferred  his  support  upon  Christian 

orthodoxy. 

Thus,  a  year  after  the  Council  of  Nicea,